With 3:48 left in the third quarter of Friday night's game against Riverside, De Le Salle running back Montrell Johnson accelerated through an open hole in the middle of the Rebels defense for a 38-yard touchdown.
On that play, he broke the Cavaliers’ single-game rushing record, and De La Salle raced to a 45-28 win.
Johnson finished with 345 yards, smashing the mark held by Therral Hatfield, who had 327 yards rushing against New Iberia in 2001.
Johnson had five touchdowns and broke the record on 23 carries — but he didn’t even know he had the record until game officials announced it afterward.
“It was so unexpected, I just followed the game plan and the holes opened up. I just did my thing,” the sophomore said with a smile on his face. “I’m still young.”
Unexpected it was.
On the second play of the game, senior starter Kendall Collins busted free for a 61-yard run but left the game with a leg injury.
Johnson and freshman De’Ante Lebranch stepped in to carry the load for the Cavs. Lebranch added 76 yards and a touchdown to Johnson’s historic game.
“That’s a sophomore running back and a freshman running back. Kendall Collins, our stud, goes down and it’s next guy up. I can’t be more proud,” coach Ryan Manale said. “We see that in practice every day from Montrell Johnson. He ran below his pads and he showed off his speed, and it was very promising for the Cavs.”
Lebranch added: “We just said we have to step up and play a big role and help the team out and just get the win. Coach told me I had to step up, and I was able to do that.”
When Lebranch heard the news of Johnson’s record, he, too, lit up.
"It’s good, it’s good,” laughed Lebranch. “That’s my brother.”
Coming off an open week, and having dropping their previous two games against St. Augustine and Karr, Manale stressed that this was an important for the Cavs to get the win over Riverside ahead of their District 10-3A schedule.
“It was a much-needed win. It was tough to get through the game. We have a lot to clean up,” Manale said. “For our inexperienced team, there’s never a must-win — but we felt the sense of urgency coming off the bye week.”
Manale’s group fought through a back-and-forth first half that that saw five lead changes, and the Cavaliers went into halftime up 24-14.
“We knew they had firepower and just to withstand the punches that they had with the athletes out there,” Manale said. “But for our offensive line to come together and our sophomore running back (Johnson) and that next-guy-up mentality, all night long for us ... to get through it, I’m very proud.”
Riverside first-year coach Kevin Dizer said his team can build off its competitive first half and several big plays, but they need to be able to stop the run to improve down the stretch.
“We still can’t stop the run,” Dizer said. “Until we get some guys that are willing to go up against bigger guys and stick their nose in there over and over again, and until we figure out how to do that, we’re going to have a hard time winning games.”