PAHS 30, PHS 20: Green Devils not tough enough on return for home game and district opener

Tryve Brackin
BREAKING FREE...PHS RB Troy Jones (23) pulls away from Pelican defenders and teammates for a big yardage pickup in last week’s district opening loss to Port Allen High.

After returning home to play in front of the local crowd, enjoying their new Field House right before kickoff, and supposedly gaining experience from five-straight road trips, Plaquemine High’s Green Devils proved simply not tough enough to handle neighboring 8-3A rival Port Allen High in their district opener.

When push came to shove, it was the visiting Pelicans who did the pushing and the shoving at the right moments to finish strong with a 30-20 victory.

Although PAHS held only a 283-282 edge in total offensive from scrimmage, had only five yards less in penalty yardage, and only three less turnovers than the Green Devils (3 to 6), in the end the visiting Pels drew up plays in the dirt, stopped a key miscued fake punt, and got the key yardage when they needed it to win the district victory by 10 points.

PAHS Coach Guy Blanchard came up with just the right new wrinkle to his offense by throwing the pigskin more than a couple of times in a game for the first time this season and it worked 65 yards of key yardage in the Pelican victory, including the go-ahead touchdown with 1:01 left on the clock.

Plaquemine bunched up in the middle to stop an expected PAHS try for a key first down to keep their late game drive alive, but the Pelicans went to the air lanes instead, catching the Green Devil secondary entirely off guard. Marcus Parker (son of former North Iberville High head football coach L.J. Parker) grabbed a 20-yard pass from QB Jacob Laprairie for the winning points. No PHS defender was within 10 yards on Parker on the play.

Port Allen added insult to injury over the final 1:01 as their short kickoff was mishandled by a Green Devil and the Pelicans recovered the loose ball. To the PHS credit, PAHS could not move the ball and the Green Devils had one last chance. Like the Pels, the PHS offense rarely throws the football and when they did with under 20 seconds left in the game, the ball was intercepted and returned a dozen yards for seven more points for the visitors. That made the game a ten-point PAHS win, instead of a three-point 23-20 contest, which was more characteristic of the night of football.

Plaquemine scored first in the 8-3A encounter on the game’s longest offensive play, a 55-yard scamper by PHS QB Darvin Butler. The Green Devils allowed a 20-yard field goal and a good drive to the Pelicans, but back came the PHS offense Big runs by Butler and Troy Jones moved the ball down the field. Butler capped the drive with a one-yard TD plunge to move the Green Devils to a 12-3 lead. The lead would hold up through the remainder of the first half as the PHS defense, led by “Tackle Machine” Devon Godchaux, held back the Pels. In the meantime, the Green Devils stopped themselves twice with fumble turnovers. PHS cornerback LaRen Phillips got only ball back with a pass interception.

Things began to go downhill for the Green Devils early in the third period as Port Allen managed a scoring drive despite some key stops by PHS defenders Chaston Barber, Dwayne Calloway, and James Lee. A crucial pass interference call on the PHS secondary helped along the Pel drive, giving the visitors a key first down at the Green Devil 15. Khiry Allen, who recently returned from injury, burst through for an 11-yard TD run and put the visitors three points closer and PHS’ lead dwindled to 12-9.

Plaquemine seemed ready to rally back to add to its lead with Hakeem Deggs garnering a couple of key first-down runs, but a bad pitch resulted in another big mistake for the Green Devil triple option. Port Allen took over possession at the PHS 45. The Pels hit on a couple of key passes to keep their drive going, despite some key stops by Godchaux and the PHS defense. The Pels pushed the ball into the red zone and tallied on a four-yard run by their key running back Devin Payne, taking the lead for the first time in the game, 16-12.

It looked like things were ready to go all downhill for the Green Devils after the go-ahead PAHS score as another fumbled loss of possession gave the visitors a big break at the start of the final quarter. However, a pass interception by Quintele Jackson got the ball back for PHS.

The Green Devils moved the ball for a first down, but eventually found themselves in a fourth and five situation. PHS decided to fake a punt, but according to Head Coach Bob Howell there was a breakdown in communication and the Green Devils came up a yard short and have to give up the ball.

PHS linebacker Jarvin Hines managed to save the situation for his club when he recovered a PAHS fumble to give the Green Devils new life. To their credit, the PHS boys responded by regaining the lead with a solid scoring drive. A key first-down run by Deggs, plus a facemask flag on PAHS, gave the Green Devils field position near midfield. Fullback Troy Jones got the call and went right up the middle of the Pel defense for a 45-yard touchdown run. Nick Thomas added a two-point conversion and PHS had a 20-16 lead that should have held up with 4:53 left in the game. It did not.

A flag on PHS added to a breakaway run by the Pel offense to push the ball down within striking distance. It looked like the PHS defense would hold as Treaveon Hawkins and Devonte Jenkins came up with good stops. However, the Pels went to the outside on a fourth-down run by Payne. Two plays later Parker was wide open for the winning touchdown and a few minutes later Plaquemine made its sixth turnover of the game to give Port Allen its ten-point district win spread.

PAHS finished with 22 first downs, 217 yards rushing, and a key 65 yards in the air for some very important game yardage. PHS closed with 13 first downs, 282 yards rushing and only one yard passing. The statistics were close enough, but PHS’ five fumbles lost and an interception proved very costly. In the end the Pelicans made the big plays to win and picked up key yardage with tougher play and clutch passing.

Butler finished with 11 yards rushing for PHS, while Jones had 93 and Deggs 65. But the Green Devils had four costly fumbles on running plays as well as the late interception. Payne finished with 130 yards rushing to pace the Pel ground game.

Coach Howell pointed to all the very reasons the Green Devils lost the game in post game comments. He remarked on the fumbles and key penalties as well as the breakdowns on the fake punt and pass coverage as reasons for the PHS loss.

Now 3-4 overall and off to a 0-1 start in district gridiron play, the Green Devils hit the road yet again in 2010, but it will be a short trip up Hwy 1 to Brusly High for their second 8-3A encounter.

Brusly hosts with a not-so-special 2-5 record, including a lopsided 53-27 non-district loss Friday night to South Terrebonne High and an overtime 8-3A opening loss to St. James.

Port Allen moved to 4-2 for the season and to 2-0 in district, tying St. James (a 53-28 victor over Livonia Friday night) for the top early spot in the district race.