Recap done by Mike Gegenheimer
The future looks bright for Zachary High School with sophomore quarterback Keilon Brown leading the offense.
Saturday night didn’t look too bad, either.
In a game that featured one of the state’s most dynamic runners in Hahnville running back Anthony “Pooka” Williams, Brown was the one to put on a show, cutting up the Tigers defense to lead No. 4 Zachary to its second Class 5A state title in three years with a 34-14 win at the Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic.
In a performance reminiscent of former Zachary quarterback Lindsey Scott, who led the Broncos to the 2015 state title, Brown was the most effective player on the field.
Ever since he first stepped under center as a freshman, Brown felt the pressure of being the one to follow in Scott’s footsteps.
But on Saturday night, Brown carved his own place in the history of Zachary football.
“The standards are high. All the pressure’s on me,” Brown said.
“It did (give validation). But it was a team win. We just preach every day at practice moving on to the next play and staying positive.”
Brown ran for 189 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, including an 80-yard race to the end zone that gave Zachary its initial lead in the second quarter.
He also threw for another 55 yards and a touchdown on 5-of-13 passing.
Zachary coach David Brewerton praised Brown for his ability to shoulder the pressure surrounding his position the last two years.
“Pretty nice to know he’s going to be the signal caller for a couple more years,” Brewerton said. “No question about that.”
The Broncos’ victory gave the Baton Rouge area four state champions in two days. On Friday afternoon, University High defeated De La Salle in the Division II select championship, and later that night, West Feliciana followed by winning the Class 3A title against Richwood.
Catholic High opened Saturday’s championships with a stirring 20-14 win over perennial powerhouse John Curtis in the Division I championship.
Finally, Zachary finished with a runaway win over Hahnville, one of the state’s most explosive teams all season.
“We were driving up here today and listening to my Alma Mater (Catholic) win another one, and it was pretty special just like it was two years ago,” Brewerton said. “So happy for those guys.
“Then, of course, (U-high coach Chad Mahaffey) and I coached together earlier in our careers, and it was great to see him win another one in dominant fashion.”
The Broncos claimed their second title in Brewerton’s four-year tenure, which began with another star, Scott, under center.
In Scott’s final game as a Bronco, the former Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year gained 316 yards of total offense and scored five touchdowns.
Brown still has two more years to build up to that. But he and his teammates put on their own show in the Superdome.
Zachary senior running back Darweshi Sanders was another potent asset for the Broncos with 117 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 18 carries.
“All the hype about Pooka — tonight, I played at a personal level because it was all about Pooka (going into the game),” Sanders said. “They must’ve forgot there was another running back lining up, too.”
Meanwhile, Williams — who was one of the hottest players in the state leading up to the championship weekend, with 200 or more yards rushing in all four of the Tigers’ previous playoff games — did his share, even as Zachary tried to slow him down.
Williams rushed for 210 yards and the Tigers’ lone touchdown of the evening on 36 carries, well short of his season average of 10.3 yards per carry.
Williams started out the night gaining yards in chunks, but the Zachary defensive front adjusted and started winning at the line of scrimmage, often hitting Williams before he could build momentum.
Hahnville coach Nick Saltaformaggio credited Zachary as one of the only defenses whose secondary was able to keep up with Williams for an entire game.
“Hat’s off to Zachary. They stopped me,” Williams said. “We didn’t play our best football game and they just came out here and went to work.”
Brown and Zachary did stall out a bit in the second half, however.
The Broncos offense did not score after halftime. They attempted a field goal that bounced off the left upright with a few minutes to play.
But the defense, coming up with key takeaways, struck again in the closing minutes.
Chris Hart scooped up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown, eliminating any comeback dreams Hahnville might have had and setting off a raucous celebration on the Zachary sideline.