Despite scoring on the game’s first play from scrimmage, five turnovers and shoddy defense doomed Tara High Thursday night. Thanks in large part to quarterback Altonio Johnson, Class 1A Pointe Coupee Central left Memorial Stadium with a 56-22 victory and some much needed confidence.
“It’s a great motivator going into district play,” Pointe Coupee Central coach Cleotha Johnigan Jr. said. “We’ve clashed with some pretty big programs in the past and it was all for a reason. Power points are important in this game.”
Johnson made plays with both his arm and feet, throwing for 312 yards and four touchdowns while also leading the Cougars (3-2) with 78 yards on the ground and two rushing scores.
“I have to give credit to my offensive line for blocking and my receivers for making plays on the ball,” said Johnson. “It’s kind of hard to contain us when we are clicking like that.”
Pointe Coupee Central outgained Class 4A Tara offense (3-2) 497 yards to 258.
“We just couldn’t cover anybody on defense,” Tara coach Cooter Mansur said. “There’s no doubt that they have some great players. We just didn’t break on balls and they made every play that they needed to make.”
After taking the opening kick off to the 39-yard line, Tara’s offense quickly got on the board on Jaylen Williams’ pass out in the flat to Da’Monte Coxie. The sophomore receiver made a couple of Cougar defenders miss and followed a convoy of blockers for a 61-yard touchdown.
Coxie was the lone bright spot Tara’s struggling offense.
He connected with Williams three times for 127 yards and two touchdowns. His first gave the Trojans an early 7-0 lead.
“We felt pretty good after that,” Mansur recalled. “We didn’t expect it would be that easy the whole game and it wasn’t.”
But that would be it for the Trojans for a while as Pointe Coupee Central scored 20 unanswered points thanks in large part to three Tara turnovers. Bryce Jones hauled in a 3-yard touchdown pass from Johnson. On the next drive Johnson took matters into his own hands with a one-yard quarterback sneak, giving PCC a 12-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
On the Cougars first possession of the second quarter, Johnson led a streaking Stephen Guidry with a perfect pass into the end zone for a 41-yard score. The two point conversion made it 20-7.
“Turnovers always kill you,” Mansur said. “We told our kids all week long that it was going to be a battle.”
The Trojans pulled within a possession by relying on the big pass play again as Williams found a wide-open Kendrick Burton near the sideline. Burton did the rest as he outran everybody for an 85-yard touchdown.
That could not sway the momentum as Johnson once again hooked up with Guidry for a 23-yard touchdown.
After Tara committed its fourth turnover of the half on the ensuing kick off, Johnson quickly led the offense down the field once again, capping off a 50 yard drive with another one yard touchdown sneak, giving the Cougars a 32-15 halftime lead.
“Every night he comes out to play the game,” Johnigan said of Johnson. “He’s one of those guys that is just a competitor. That’s a plus for our offense.”
At the break, Johnson already totaled 271 passing yards while Tara could only record 194 yards of total offense, the bulk of those yards coming on its two scores.
“After giving up 56 points last week, we had to work on our defense a little bit,” Johnigan Jr. explained. “We knew coming in that we would have to stop them.”
The turnover bug kept biting the Trojans in the second half when a botched snap recovered by Pointe Coupee Central made for Tara’s fifth turnover of the night.
On the very next play, Cougar tailback Ernest Lemay took a hand off from Johnson and ran 24 yards untouched up the right side for his first touchdown of the night, killing any momentum and chance the Trojans might have had.
“We are resilient,” said Johnigan. “We preach to our guys that we can score fast and a lot of different ways.”
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