NEW ORLEANS — Defense reigned supreme as West Monroe High School claimed a 20-13 victory over Carencro in the Class 5A title game that concluded the Louisiana High School Athletic Association-State Farm Prep Classic on Saturday night.
The Rebels held the Bears 87 yards rushing — 261 below their season average — while winning their second 5A title in three years at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“We just flat out couldn’t block them,” Carencro coach Brent Indest said. “They dared us to run the ball. I knew it was going to be tough for our offense against those guys.”
WMHS (13-2) has won eight 5A titles dating to 1993. Carencro also finished 13-2.
The Class 5A final completed the two-day LHSAA championship event. A crowd of 44,126 attended the five title games.
West Monroe coach Don Shows noted the performance of his defense, which limited Carencro’s Alex Johnson, the state’s top rusher with 2,805 yards, to 43 yards on 13 carries.
“Well, the thing you’ve got to do with (Carencro) is not give them any seams to run in,” Shows said. “Where he (Johnson) has gotten most of his yards is on a trap and running outside.
“The first thing we did was make sure he didn’t get outside on us. I thought the defense did an excellent job of executing their game plan.”
In addition to the 5A game, champions were also crowned in classes 2A and 3A Saturday as a total of 29,874 fans watched. John Curtis beat Winnfield 33-3 to win the 2A crown, while St. Charles Catholic edged Amite 9-8 in the 3A game.
Quarterback Connor Osborne was voted the Outstanding Player for West Monroe after running for 85 yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns. Fullback Bubba Reeves added 94 yards as WMHS compiled 213 rushing yards.
Linebacker Kye Poole, who recovered three fumbles and had five tackles, was voted the Outstanding Player for Carencro.
West Monroe’s defense was led by lineman James McFarland and linebacker Deano Casola, who each had 4.5 tackles. Nosegard Marklyn England and linebacker Will Bennett each had four tackles. Carencro drove into West Monroe territory only once all night and used turnovers to set up its scores.
Quarterback Jalen Nixon had 43 yards on 15 carries for Carencro and passed for 73 yards, but was intercepted twice.
“If you don’t have a hole, you can’t run anywhere,” Johnson said.
All the first-half scoring took place in the first quarter. Carencro took the opening kickoff, but lost yards on all but one play before punting.
West Monroe took over at its own 47 and didn’t need long to score. Osborne scored on a 45-yard run up the middle on the Rebels’ third scrimmage play. Zach Alexander’s point-after kick made it 7-0 with 8:30 to go in the first period.
The West Monroe defense stifled the Carencro offense again. A 26-yard punt return by the Rebels’ Xavier Woods set up a 46-yard field goal by Beau Benson, making it 10-0 with 5:44 left in the opening quarter.
Carencro got the first major turnover when Poole recovered a fumble by WMHS’ Jacob Tyson. The Bears took over at the WMHS 15. A 32-yard field goal from DJ Thomas cut the West Monroe lead to seven, at 10-3 with 13 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Poole recovered another fumble — this one by WMHS’ Reeves — with 7:51 left in the half, ending another Rebels drive into Carencro territory.
West Monroe mounted one more threat in the closing seconds. Osborne completed a 33-yard pass to Woods, moving the ball to CHS 31 with 16 seconds to go. A 48-yard field goal try by Benson was off the mark on the final play of the half.
Turnovers proved to be Carencro’s undoing in the third quarter. First, Johnson lost a fumble recovered by West Monroe’s Terrell Lathan. Then, Alex Yount intercepted a Nixon pass and returned it 39 yards to the CHS 30. A 31-yard field goal by Benson followed, giving the Rebels a 13-3 lead at the 4:22 mark.
“We were doing some slants and staying outside against them,” Lathan said of Carencro.
Finally, Woods intercepted Nixon, giving WMHS the ball at the CHS 30. Osborne did the honors this time, scoring on a 14-yard run, upping the Rebels lead to 20-3 with 1:43 still left in the third quarter.
A 25-yard pass from Nixon to Johnson got Carencro to the WMHS 36 early in the fourth quarter. The Rebels stopped Nixon short of a first down on fourth-and-2. But Poole recovered a third fumble, giving the Bears another chance.
This time, Carencro cashed in. Nixon scored on a 13-yard run four plays later, making it a 20-10 with 8:52 remaining.
WMHS fumble on its next scrimmage play and Carencro’s Kassz Savoy recovered. A 31-yard field goal by Thomas cut the West Monroe lead to seven, at 20-13, with 6:53 left.
Carencro didn’t get the ball back until there were 46 seconds remaining. An 18-yard run by Reeves was the key play in the time consuming drive. Osborne also had a notable 13-yard run.
“What affected us was their players were always in the right spot,” Indest said.
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