It wasn’t the prettiest pass Keilon Brown has thrown. He bobbled the snap on third-and-10 at his own 20 with the game on the line.
The pass wobbled just a bit, but Chris Hilton did the rest, racing 80 yards to the end zone with 1:51 remaining to give sixth-seeded Zachary a 27-24 victory over No. 1 West Monroe in the Class 5A title game that concluded the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic on Saturday night.
“After I caught the pass, I looked up at the big screen and saw I guy behind me,” Hilton said. “So I had to turn on the jets.”
Brown was the title-game MVP for a second time for the Broncos (13-2), who won their second straight 5A title and third in four years. He completed 11 of 17 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns. He also led ZHS in rushing with 94 yards on 22 carries with a touchdown.
Hilton, a sophomore, had 91 yards on two catches, both for TDs, while Chandler Whitfield finished with a game-high 104 yards receiving on five catches and a TD.
Zachary built a 20-10 halftime lead held it until West Monroe quarterback Garrett Kahmann scored on a 1-yard with 9:26 remaining to give the Rebels (14-1) their first lead of the night. Kahmann was WMHS’ MVP after passing for 102 yards.
In scoring the winning touchdown, the Broncos scored more points than any team had on West Monroe all season. The most they had given up was 24 in a September loss to Alabama’s McGill-Toolen. The Rebels had not given up a point in the playoffs until Saturday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“Obviously that was one heck of a football game,” Zachary coach David Brewerton said. “I know through the course of the weekend there were some lopsided games. Glad we could give y’all one a little closer tonight.
“Five years ago when I took this job I laid in bed and thought about the future and where Zachary could be. I thought about who was the standard in 5A football, and it was West Monroe. I just told coach (Jerry) Arledge as he exited the building how much respect I have for him and his program.”
After the Broncos scored, their defense made one last stand. It ended with Wes Brady stripping the ball away from Kahmann on a fourth-and-5 play with 26 seconds remaining.
“I’m heart-broken; our kids are heart-broken,” West Monroe coach Arledge said. “You work so hard and when it comes to an end, there is nothing that can be done. That’s the motivating factor, the fear of losing.”
Zachary ended West Monroe defense’s scoreless playoff run quickly and scored on three of its first four possession while building its halftime lead.
The Broncos’ bread-and-butter combination of Brown to Whitfield dialed up a 46-yard TD play with 8:01 left in the first quarter. The play capped a 9-play, 71-yard drive and gave ZHS a 6-0 lead.
Kahmann’s 44-yard pass to Tanner Young set up a 39-yard field goal by Reece Aultman that made it a 6-3 game at the 6:06 mark.
Zachary extended its lead to 13-3 less than two minutes later. First, Brown and Whitfield connected on a 38-yard pass play. Then Brown raced 16 yards to the end zone with 4:26 still to go in the first quarter.
The Rebels fired back 14 seconds later. Michael Hamburg returned the ensuing kickoff 52 yards to the ZHS 20. Carson Jones ran around left end to the end zone on the next play.
Jones’ score got West Monroe back within three points at 13-10. But the Broncos had one more first-half score in them. The 7-play, 75-yard drive ended with the 6-foot-5 Hilton grabbing a pass from Brown at its highest point for an 11-yard scoring play with 10:35 to go in the half.
The ZHS defense made its share of plays too. Kahmann was sacked six times. Zachary lineman Caleb Jackson sacked Kahmann on the final two plays of the half.