The Sugar Cane Classic trophy is heading back on the south end of highway 1 in West Baton Rouge Parish.
The Brusly Panthers’ bruising rushing attack propelled the team to a 21-13 win over arch-rival, the Port Allen Pelicans Friday night at Guy Otwell Stadium.
“This was something we talked about all offseason,” said Brusly head coach Hoff Schooler. “We shifted to a different style of play. A style where toughness would come into play on Friday night and responding to adversity would come in to play on Friday night. We challenged them all offseason. “Twenty-one to 13 in a rivalry game where they recovered an onside kick and we had penalties and red zone turnovers and our kids still never let up they just kept playing and playing. We wanted to make it a four-quarter game and let all of that conditioning stuff kick in.”
Brusly faced adversity on its first drive of the game. On the second snap of the game, quarterback Nick Penell was hit by the Port Allen tandem of Justin Louis and Treveon Scott and the ball came loose.
The Pelicans recovered the fumble on the Panther 27-yard line. Six plays later, Port Allen quarterback Jacoby Howard ran it in for a touchdown from 14 yards out to make the score 7-0 with 9:57 remaining in the first quarter.
It didn’t take long for the Panthers two respond. Brusly executed a seven-play 45-yard drive capped by Tyler Tussey’s 3-yard plunge into the end zone. Nathan Landry’s extra point tied the score with 6:36 left in the opening quarter.
The turnover bug struck Brusly later in the quarter as well. Facing a 1st-and-goal from the 7-yard line, the Panthers lost the football and it was recovered by the Pelicans.
The teams went into halftime tied 7-7.
With the Panthers driving late in the third quarter, Tussey was stripped inside of the Pelican 15-yard line and Port Allen took possession.
The momentum swing was short-lived as Port Allen fumbled one play later and handed the ball back to Brusly on the Port Allen 27-yard line.
That turnover set up Penell’s 2-yard run four plays later, giving the Panthers a 14-7 advantage.
Sydney Moore picked off Port Allen’s Jeremiah Dehon on the next drive, which set up a Penell 8-yard touchdown run 10 plays later to put Brusly ahead 21-7 with 6:55 left in the game.
Howard connected on a 25-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Joseph with 3:19 remaining in the fourth quarter. Port Allen’s 2-point conversion try failed to cut the deficit to 21-13.
The Pelicans recovered the onside kick and took over on the Panther 40, but the Brusly defense forced a turnover on downs to essentially end the game.
Brusly rushed for 306 yards, led by Tussey’s 100 yards on 16 attempts and a score. Penell finished with 87 yards on 18 carries with two scores. Keandre Bynum added 74 yards on 12 attempts.
“Our mindset coming in was just 31-22 (last year’s score),” the senior Tussey said. “We talked about that since the beginning of the summer. It was on our minds, we’re coming back with the trophy. Everybody’s mind was set and that’s just how it went.”
Tussey said he believed the Panthers run game tired out the Pelicans in the second half where they rushed for 180 yards as a team.
“ We worked all summer, nothing but hard conditioning,” Tussey said. “A few people quit here and there. We’re pushing each other. We out conditioned them. They were tired by the second half and we were all still good to go.”
Edward Wilson led the Pelican rushing attack with 36 yards on five attempts. Howard added 26 yards on nine carries and he completed 3-of-6 passes for 32 yards and a touchdown.
Freshman quarterback Jeremiah Dehon went 4-of-8 passing for 46 yards and two interceptions.
Joseph was Port Allen’s leading receiver, hauling in five passes for 55 yards and a touchdown.
Lekelvin Batiste chipped in with two catches for 22 yards.
“It’s emotional,” Port Allen head coach Don Gibson said of the storied rivalry. “These kids and these coaches put so much into it. You want to win this game every year, but unfortunately, we came up a little short. These guys have a lot of fight, they have a lot of desire to keep plugging. When the things looked grim, they kept going and kept fighting, so we’re going to get there. That’s the thing that I’m looking forward to.
“Those guys have a lot of fight and grit. We got fatigued,” Gibson continued. “They (Brusly) had the numbers on us. Their guys were playing one way, but we kept plugging and fighting and we had a chance at the end. That’s all you can ask for.”
Both teams will be on the road next week with Port Allen facing the Plaquemine Green Devils and Brusly heading to Covington to take on the Northlake Christian Wolverines.