Ouachita Christian blanks Kentwood in 1A semi

MONROE — Top-seeded Ouachita Christian is going to its third consecutive Class 1A state championship game after shutting out No. 5 Kentwood 35-0 in semifinal action Friday night at OCS.

What was billed as a showcase of two of the best offenses in Class 1A football turned out to be another OCS (14-0) blowout. Kentwood (11-2) struggled to move the ball against an aggressive Eagle defense.

“Defense wins championships,” said OCS coach Steven Fitzhugh. “A goose egg in the semifinals — you just can’t say enough about that.”

The OCS defense allowed just 193 yards on a Kangaroo team averaging more than 37 points per game. Top Kangaroos rusher Shyheim Carter was held to just 56 yards on eight carries.

Meanwhile, the Eagles offense lived up to its hype behind the arm of junior quarterback Quin Graves, who was 17-of-23 passing for 184 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.

Graves helped pace the Eagles early and threw two touchdown passes to Jordan Washam on the first two possessions.

He continued to attack through the air and extended the lead to 21 points with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Braden Bristo late in the second quarter.

Bristo became Graves’ favorite target on the night. He snagged eight catches for 78 yards and a touchdown.

“I couldn’t do this without my offensive line and receivers backing me up,” Graves said. “I knew we could score, but I wasn’t expecting this. Kentwood’s a great team.”

Graves’ successful passing attack opened up the run for Ahkeem Henderson in the second half.

Henderson finished with 100 yards on just nine carries. He was able to run out most of the clock in the second half.

All hope faded for the Kangaroos when Hunter Loveland picked off Kentwood quarterback Tavarious Battiste on the Kentwood 15-yard line and ran it in for a touchdown on Kentwood’s first possession of the second half.

The victory extended the Eagles’ win streak to 29 games and guarantees them a chance to win back-to-back state titles.

Fitzhugh said experience and leadership got his team to this point.

“These guys have worked hard all year long,” Fitzhugh said.

“We lost a great group of seniors last year, and some people kind of counted us to have a down year. But we had great senior leadership that stepped up this year, and the rest of the team has followed.”

Kentwood coach David Currier said OCS played a more physical style of football that kept his offense from finding a rhythm and kept his team in bad field position most of the night.

Kentwood was unable to convert its only trip to the red zone despite having the ball with a first down on the OCS 15-yard line. The Eagles defense forced a turnover on downs.

Currier said he was proud of his team for taking the program “one step further up on the ladder.” He said he hopes his team can continue to build on the success of the season.

“We knew early in the season (OCS) would be one of the best teams in the state. We’re not at that level yet, but we hope to get there,” Currier said.

OCS will face Haynesville, which beat West St. John, for the Class 1A state title at 4 p.m. Friday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.