PORT ALLEN — No. 5 seed Livonia withstood a monster game from Port Allen’s Darian Claiborne, and picked up big plays in all three stages to hold on and win 30-22 in their Class 3A regional round game Friday night.
The Wildcats (10-2) advance to next week’s quarterfinal round and will host No. 13 seed Jennings, who pulled off a 20-19 road upset of fourth-seed Loranger.
Claiborne finished the game with 27 carries for 107 yards and one touchdown, 12-of-24 passing for 209 yards and a score, eight tackles, one interception, a tackle for loss and one forced fumble for the 21st-seeded Pelicans (7-4).
“With Claiborne there, you never know. He’s a game changer,” Livonia coach David Brewerton said.
LHS’s Russell Farris and Mark Beauvais combined for 122 rushing yards, with Farris picking up 66 on 16 carries and a touchdown and Beauvais gaining 56 on 13 rushes.
Livonia entered the second half nursing a 7-6 lead. The Wildcats’ defense forced Port Allen to punt on the Pelicans’ opening possession and began working from the LHS 40-yard line with 9:04 left in the third quarter. Ben Todd’s pass to Brandon Armond gave the Wildcats a first-down at the Port Allen 45-yard line at the 8:17 mark, followed by a 12-yard run by Russell Farris to move the ball to the Pelicans’ 32. Todd connected with Tyrus Georgetown to convert a first down near the PAHS 21-yard line with 6:37 left in the third.
The Wildcats capped the drive three plays later. On 3rd-and-6 near the PAHS 17-yard line, Todd rolled to his left and found Armond, who beat a defender and walked into the end zone for the score. Omar Carbahol’s PAT with 4:58 left in the third gave Livonia a 14-6 lead.
Claiborne went to work in an effort to tie the game on the ensuing possession. Starting at the PAHS 37-yard line, the Texas A&M commitment scrambled to near midfield for a first down. He followed that up with a deep throw to Caleb Johnson, who got behind the Livonia defense and scored for a 53-yard touchdown connection. Jestin Kelly rumbled in for the two-point conversion, tying the game at 14-14 with 4:20 remaining in the third quarter.
“We had opportunities in the first half and we didn’t capitalize on them,” Port Allen coach Guy Blanchard. “We knew it would hurt us if we didn’t.”
All momentum gained by the Claiborne-to-Johnson hookup went away quickly as Deonte Bridgewater scooped up the ensuing kickoff near the Livonia 25, went to his left before cutting back toward the sideline and taking it to house for a 75-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, breaking PAHS’ momentum and giving the Wildcats a 21-14 lead with 4:06 left in the third quarter.
The Pelicans responded with a long drive, only to see it fall apart deep in Livonia territory. However, Livonia’s defense knocked the ball away from Claiborne on 4th-and-8 at the Wildcats’ 10-yard line, giving LHS the ball back with 1:08 left in the third.
Claiborne went to work again — on defense — in the fourth quarter in another attempt to get the Pelicans back into the game. He stepped in front of Todd’s pass near midfield and picked it off near the Pelicans’ 45-yard line with 8:02 remaining. However, the drive fizzled and a fourth-down snap went over Claiborne’s head to kill the drive and give the Wildcats back the ball with 7:08 left.
The Wildcats made it a two-possession game as Carbahol nailed a 28-yard field goal with 4:17 remaining in regulation, giving Livonia a 24-14 lead and seemingly iced the game by sacking Claiborne on fourth down to regain possession with 3:12 left in the game.
However, Claiborne engineered a 12-play, 70-yard drive in the final 1:58, calling his own number for the score. Johnson punched in the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 24-22 with 10.4 seconds remaining in regulation.
Port Allen tried for an onside kick, but Darius Hammond picked up the ball and scored on a 60-yard kickoff return to end the game.