Top-ranked Notre Dame too much for Green Devils in opening round of the 3-A grid playoffs

Tryve Brackin
COACH BOB HOWELL…is shown here huddled with his Plaquemine High offensive unit. Despite a second playoff loss Friday night, the Green Devil gridiron mentor has led his club to a two-year 11-11 regular season worksheet after taking over a program with back-to-back winless campaigns.

Top-ranked Notre Dame of Crowley turned out to be too much of a tough host for the visiting Plaquemine High Green Devils Friday night as the locals lost in the first round of the state Class 3-A state football playoffs by a 38-8 score.

On the eve of the state playoff game Coach Bob Howell brought his Green Devils to the Parish Veterans Day celebration and admitted tough, winnable District 8-3A losses during the regular season to visiting league rivals Port Allen and St. James High put his football team in a very tough position to open the state playoffs Friday.

“Those two losses really hurt. We finished third in district when we could have won the thing,” noted Howell, whose team’s 32nd power point showing put the Green Devils in the last state playoff berth spot in Class 3-A football and forced them into an opening round road game at top-ranked Notre Dame.

“We draw a tough first-round team, but that is where the power points, our schedule, and our record put us,” noted the PHS coach.

The trip to Crowley marked the second-straight state playoff trip and loss for Plaquemine under Howell, but that has been a vast improvement for Green Devil football. Howell took over a program with previous back-to-back winless seasons and generated an 11-11 record the last two campaigns. The PHS mentor plans to continue building a solid football program at the school and has the benefit of moving into a new Field House during the season as added motivation.

Friday night’s game proved to be a tough draw and the consequence of the team’s 5-5 regular season showing and 2-2 District 8-3A finish. Notre Dame, coached by the legendary Lewis Cook, won its 11th-straight game of the season by building a 17-0 halftime lead and then expanding it before PHS finally scored in the last period of play.

Notre Dame goes on from here in an attempt to make its sixth appearance in the state’s 3-A title game over the last seven years. Meanwhile, PHS and Coach Howell begin off season preparation for spring workouts and the 2011 campaign.

Senior PHS quarterback Darvin Butler scored the only touchdown of the game for the Green Devils in the final stanza on a short run. Junior running back Troy Jones led the way for the PHS triple option attack with 63 yards on 14 carries. Plaquemine finished with 136 yards rushing and another 34 yards in the air. Although PHS had no turnovers, they were hit for eight flags and 91 yards in penalties. Notre Dame closed with 199 yards rushing and 47 yards passing, one interception and 40 yards in penalties.

The Green Devils made the trip with two key defensive starters out of the lineup due to disciplinary reasons. A report from the PHS camp was  Plaquemine did not play well on either side of the ball against the strong ND Pioneers.

During the regular season the Green Devils looked a playoff-level team as much as they did not, i.e. the 5-5 record. The offense averaged over 30 points a game and the run-oriented option attack accounted for nearly 3,000 yards rushing in ten games. PHS lost by only a few points at home to Port Allen and in the final period of play. Later they fell to repeat 8-3A champ St. James, but not before they drove the game into four overtimes before falling by a mere two points. The Green Devils beat both Brusly and Livonia for their two district wins, tallying over 50 points in each runaway victory. They routed 3-A Berwick on the road and 2-A playoff-bound Lusher Charter in Plaquemine. And, they beat 3-A playoff-bound Catholic of New Iberia for the second-straight season. Non-district losses came at the hands of 4-A Glen Oaks and Washington-Marion, but in each game the PHS offense tallied points, but made critical miscues. Mistakes also hurt the club in a lopsided road loss to 5-A St. Amant High.

The Green Devils’ schedule also forced the team to play five-straight games on the road and only three home games during the season. They went 4-2 on the road and only 1-2 at home during the season.