Forty eight minutes wasn’t enough time to decide the winner of the 49th Sugar Cane Classic matchup.
Brusly head coach Hoff Schooler’s gutsy call to go for the win in OT paid off and the classic trophy is staying in Brusly for another year.
Nick Penell powered his way through several Port Allen defenders for the game-winning 2-point conversion run to cap the Panthers’ 22-21 win over the Port Allen Pelicans in overtime Friday night to kick off the 2019 regular season.
Friday night’s win marked the second straight victory for Brusly and the Panthers grabbed a 25-24 edge all-time in the series.
“Port Allen’s a really good football team,” Schooler said. “We felt like we had the look that we wanted right there. If we got that look, we were going to try and win.”
Both defenses took center stage Friday holding the opposing offenses scoreless through the first half.
Port Allen struck first with 7:45 left in the third quarter thanks to Jeremiah Dehon’s 21-yard touchdown pass to Lekelvin Battiste.
Penell put Brusly on the board on a 3-yard with eight seconds remaining in the third quarter. The Panthers shook things up with an onside kick, which Grant Watts recovered.
A few plays later, Dale Gordon broke a run up the middle for a 29-yard score to give the Panthers a 14-7 edge.
“At that point, they had a little bit of control in the ball game and we needed some juice in the stadium,” Schooler said. “A game like this, you gotta take some chances and that one paid off for us.”
Edward Wilson’s 9-yard touchdown run tied the game with 3:04 remaining. The Panthers had an opportunity to win the game in regulation, but Nathan Landry missed a 35-yard field goal as time expired.
Port Allen got the ball first in the extra session and scored on the first play, Wilson’s 10-yard run.
Penell plunged in the end zone, which set up the game-winning conversion.
“I had the whole city on my back, whole Brusly counting on me to score,” Penell said. “All I was thinking was it’s my last time playing them. I have to score. When we hiked the ball, that was it.
I felt that coach had the confidence to put the ball in my hands, so I couldn’t let him down. I had the whole team depending on me.”
Penell rushed for 78 yards on 13 carries with two scores. He completed 3-of-7 passes for 64 yards.
“He’s a competitor,” Schooler said of his quarterback. “He wants to win as bad as anybody out here. All the confidence in the world. That’s who needed to have the ball in his hands right there.”
Gordon finished as Brusly’s leading rusher with over 80 yards rushing on 22 attempts despite leaving the game with an injury. Josh Westly caught two passes for 35 yards.
Watts finished with six tackles and an interception late that set up Brusly with an opportunity to win in regulation.
The defensive back was locked in the entire game but admitted he didn’t see the game-clinching play.
“I couldn’t watch it. I didn’t watch it,” he said with a smile. “I was too scared. I just heard the crowd screaming so I thought we scored.”
Wilson led Port Allen with 27 yards on eight attempts. Dehon completed 8-of-14 passes for 74 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Battiste hauled in five receptions for 50 yards and a score. On the defensive side, Taveyis Moore finished with 13 tackles while Stephen Springer and Robert Amacker each recovered a fumble.
“It’s tough man,” said Port Allen head coach Don Gibson. “Give credit to Brusly. They did what they needed to do to win the football game. We just have to learn from it and keep fighting.”
Senior leaders Watts and Penell reflected on their last game in the historic rivalry.
“We wanted it to be by more, but a victory is a victory and we all worked our butts off out here tonight and we can be proud of this one,” Watts said. “This is the best game I’ve ever been in. This is it. This is the game. This is the story. This is everything.”
“It feels good,” Penell said. “Knowing that this is my last time playing them and that the trophy is staying in Brusly. This is the best game we’ve ever played.”