Even on one leg, Kentwood quarterback Shyheim Carter was too much for the two-time defending state champion Haynesville Golden Tornados in the Class 1A state championship game here Friday night — especially with the supporting cast the Kangaroos had taking Carter’s back.
Carter, who injured his knee in practice Thursday, couldn’t run the football worth a lick Friday night. Instead, he threw for 235 yards and four touchdowns in an MVP turn that delivered Kentwood’s seventh state title with a 40-7 romp in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
But instrumental in Kentwood’s 10th consecutive victory was a receiver corps that Haynesville couldn’t cover and a defense that limited the Golden Tornados (11-3) to 165 total yards and came up with four turnovers, one of them Jerriell Robinson’s 35-yard fumble return touchdown that clinched it for the Kangaroos (13-1).
“Everybody knows about Shyheim, and deservedly so,” Kentwood coach Jonathan Foster II said. “This just shows you, we have Shyheim, but we have a defense at Kentwood, and to hold the two-time defending champion to seven points, that’s a testament to Brandon Holmes and the rest of the 10 guys who flew around and hit and made plays.”
Holmes, who spearheaded Kentwood with a game-high 13 tackles, forced a fumble and had one tackle for loss, said the key was concentrating on Tors fullback Keandre Harris, who did have a game-high 88 rushing yards on 18 carries and the lone touchdown to earn Outstanding Player honors for Haynesville. But the Roos made him pay for every one of those yards.
“That’s their identity, so we had to attack the fullback, and that’s how we won the game,” Holmes said. “If you take away what they have, you win. The defense made a statement, all 11 of us.”
Carter finished 11-for-18 passing for 235 yards. He had a field day in the first half, throwing three of his TD passes to build a 21-7 halftime lead, including a 29-yard slant pass to Raymontre Palmer that snapped a 7-7 tie in the second quarter.
And after Brendon Holmes intercepted a Haynesville pass and returned it 11 yards to the Haynesville 10, Carter found Jaleel Hampton with his second scoring strike, a 12-yarder that made it 21-7 with 8:41 left in the first half.
Hampton, who hung Kentwood’s first points with an 8-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter, finished with four catches for 106 yards, while freshman Raymontre Palmer had five grabs for 78 yards and another score.
“My offensive coordinator just told me to go where my mismatch was, so that’s what I did,” Carter said. “Any defensive back is a mismatch on my guys.”
So who needed to Carter to run?
“Leading up to this morning, we didn’t think Shyheim was going to be able to play,” Foster said. “And then he stepped up.”
“We had some breakdowns on coverage, but a lot of it was they made some tremendous catches and he put the ball exactly where it needed to be put to make those catches,” Haynesville coach David Franklin said. “He threw it very well tonight on one leg.”
And Haynesville couldn’t recover. The Golden Tornados drove to the Kentwood 8 early in the third quarter before Kentwood’s Lorenz Morris forced Harris to fumble and Tyrone Broomfield recovered. Carter capped an 11-play, 84-yard drive with a 23-yard TD pass to Aldric Lott, and Lott also added a 29-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.
“They basically wrecked some stuff that we did,” said Franklin. “We faced some good offenses, but they have so many weapons, and the scary thing is a lot of them are young. It’s not going to be very much fun next year, either.”