Livonia tops Port Allen in regional playoffs, battle of coaching friends
For four quarters, two coaches threw their friendship out the window.
By the end of the 48 minutes, Port Allen’s state championship hopes went flying as well.
The Pelicans fell prey to Livonia special teams that gave the Wildcats a 30-22 win over PAHS in the Class 3A regional playoffs Friday at Guy Otwell Stadium.
“We had opportunities in the first half and we didn’t capitalize, and that’s the story. We knew it would hurt us if we didn’t,” Port Allen Guy said. “We put the ball in the hands of our playmakers, and they just didn’t make enough plays.”
The game pit Blanchard against longtime friend, former colleague and frequent hunting buddy David Brewerton.
The loss also meant Blanchard must pay out on a bet.
“I have to take him hunting now to my camp in Mississippi. Hopefully, they’ll make it in the long run,” he said. “We’ll chew the fat on this at camp. I was hoping to get my first duck kill, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. Hopefully, this will happen after their season ends in December.”
The loss capped a stellar season for the Pelicans, who finished 7-4 and reached a regional playoff game for the second consecutive year.
‘One of our coaches said it best when he mentioned that from eight years ago of 0-10 to 7-4 not being a good enough season,” Blanchard said. “It means expectations are rising. We like it and relish it, and we look forward to getting it going again next year.
“I love the expectations and the willingness to step up for those expectations,” he said. “What else can I as from our kids when they fought and got after it? I know their hearts are broken, but that’s part of the game.”
Livonia (10-2) advanced to its first-ever quarterfinal berth. The Wildcats will host Jennings (9-3) on Friday, after Jennings nipped Loranger.
Port Allen’s hunt for a win continued through the final seconds of the game. A third quarter field goal and fourth quarter kickoff return TD paved the way for the Livonia win.
The Pelicans scored off a Darian Claiborne 4-yard keep with 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter. A Caleb Johnson two-point conversion cut the Livonia lead to 24-22 as PAHS attempted an onside kick as a last-ditch effort for victory.
That plan was shot out the water when Darius Hammond grabbed the ball and ran it 60 yards for a Livonia touchdown at the final buzzer.
“I love that these kids played and fought to the bitter end,” Blanchard said. “You can’t say enough about them. They played their hearts out.”
Special teams came through in a big way for the Wildcats. Sophomore Deonte Bridgewater dashed 75 yards on a return in the third quarter, while Omar Carbahol’s 28-yard field goal in the fourth quarter put LHS ahead 24-14.
Livonia took the lead off a Russell Farris 2-point TD run in the first quarter. Carbahol booted the PAT to give the Wildcats a 7-0 advantage.
Port Allen got on the scoreboard in the second quarter off a Johnson 5-yard scamper, which followed a Claiborne 15-yard keep. Livonia held on to the lead after the Pels missed out on a extra-point try.
Much of the Livonia game plan focused on trying to stop Claiborne, Joseph and Jestin Kelly Brewerton said.
“(Claiborne) is 80 (yards) snapping a finger, so he kept us tense the entire time,” Brewerton said. “We never have cramping issues ever, but I think their bodies were so tense trying to make sure he didn’t get away from us outside that it took a lot out of us physically.”
Claiborne carried 27 times for 207 yards to power the Pelican rushing game. He completed 12 of 24 passes for 209 yards.
The tempo surged in the third quarter. Livonia quarterback Ben Todd connected with Brandon Armond for a 17 yard scoring pass, which followed a Bridgewater 20-yard gain and a 15-yard run by Farris.
Port Allen responded quickly. Barely a minute elapsed when Claiborne found Johnson for a 53-yard TD. Jestin Kelly’s conversion run tied the score at 14.
The Pelicans could barely savor the moment because Bridgewater followed with a 75-yard kickoff return that put the Wildcats back in the lead.
“That was huge,” Brewerton said. “That momentum change right there when you give up a long play like that and then you’re back in the end zone, that’s a monster play.”