The bottom line in the state playoffs, regardless of the round, is survive and advance.
The Destrehan Wildcats did just that in riding three touchdowns by LSU commitment John Emery and a clutch 17-yard scoring pass from Harold Blood Jr. to wide receiver Quinton Torbor to score a wild 31-26 victory against Landry-Walker on Friday night in a Class 5A regional round game played at Behrman Stadium.
Fourth-seeded Destrehan (11-1) recorded its ninth consecutive victory to advance to next week’s state quarterfinals and a rematch against fellow District 7-5A rival Terrebonne, a 35-14 winner against Ouachita. The game is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at Destrehan.
“(Winning) is all that matters; we got the win and we get to play again next week," said Blood after completing 12 of 22 passes for 166 yards without being intercepted. “That was the goal and the only goal."
A No. 18 seed, Landry-Walker (7-5) entered having won four straight and seven of its past eight games. The Charging Buccaneers’ losses were to John Curtis, Karr, Warren Easton, John Ehret and Destrehan, five teams who entered the second week of the playoffs with a collective record of 49-4.
“What a great football game," Destrehan coach Steve Robicheaux said. “What a tough second-round game. We knew they were good. They’re the best No. 18 seed that I’ve seen in a long time. They have so many good athletes. We were fortunate to make some plays and fortunate to come out on top."
The Wildcats scored three second-quarter touchdowns to overcome deficits of 8-0 and 14-7 against the Charging Buccaneers and assume a 28-20 advantage at intermission.
Emery, who announced his commitment to LSU on Tuesday, loomed large with 114 yards on 23 carries with scoring runs of 4 and 6 yards that accounted for Destrehan’s first two touchdowns. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound senior followed those with a dramatic 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown after Landry-Walker had closed with 20-14.
“We told him he has to be big for us in the playoffs, and that’s what he was," Robicheaux said. “He made such a big play on the kickoff for us. That’s what five-star running backs are supposed to do."
Mike Ehrmann kicked a 35-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter to score the game’s final points after hitting all four of his PAT kicks.
Destrehan’s defense stepped to the forefront three times in the second half to turn back threats by the Charging Buccaneers, who out-gained the Wildcats 438-281.
Senior safety Champ Craven produced the first stop with an interception to halt a Landry-Walker penetration to Destrehan’s 21-yard line. The turnover also set in motion a 13-play, 78-yard drive to Ehrmann’s field goal.
Destrehan defenders then turned back the Charging Buccaneers on downs at the Wildcats’ 34-yard line when they forced two straight incompletions by quarterback Ja’Quan Dorsey.
The Wildcats' defense saved its best for last to turn back Landry-Walker’s last gasp with a drive that began at the Charging Buccaneers’ 27-yard line with 1:17 remaining. The Charging Bucs used three plays to advance the ball to their own 47, but reserve quarterback Tory Cargo was sacked for a 17-yard loss by inside linebacker Alex Huszar.
The sack was Destrehan’s second of the drive, which ended with a false start penalty against Landry-Walker and an unsuccessful hook-and-lateral that produced a game-ending 10-yard gain.
Senior running back Chad Alexander rushed for 136 yards on 14 carries with touchdowns of 24 and 6 yards and Dorsey contributed 71 yards on 12 attempts with a 1-yard quarterback sneak to pace Landry-Walker’s 191-yard rushing effort.
Dorsey and Cargo combined to complete 20 of 32 passes for 247 yards, with Dorsey finding wide receiver Dwayn Griffin with a 14-yard scoring pass good for the only points of the third period that cut Destrehan’s lead to 28-26.
Next for the Wildcats is a pairing against a fellow 11-1 team in Terrebonne, which Destrehan defeated 49-20 two weeks ago in Week 10.
“It’s tough playing the same team twice," Robicheaux said. “They made some mistakes against us the first time, but it’s not going to be like that this time, I can promise you that. We’ve got to be focused and ready to go."