NEW ORLEANS — There was no gaudy offensive show for Ouachita Christian. In fact, the Eagles lost four fumbles.
However, a second-half goal-line stand and a pivotal interception near its end zone helped Ouachita Christian notch a 20-8 victory over Haynesville High in the Class 1A title game that opened the Louisiana High School Athletic Association/State Farm Prep Classic on Friday.
“They say defense wins championships,” OCS coach Steven Fitzhugh said. “Our defense has helped carry us all year.”
With the victory, Monroe-based Ouachita Christian (15-0) won its second straight 1A title at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Eagles have won 30 straight games.
Quarterback-defensive back Braden Bristo was selected as OCS’ Outstanding Player. Bristo ran for 98 yards on 14 carries, completed 5-of-10 passes for 62 yards and had a game-clinching interception. Just as notable was the performance of Colby Webb, who ran for a game-high 99 yards on 16 carries and scored all three Eagle TDs.
Jerrell Jackson, who ran for 42 yards, had a 32-yard kickoff return and passed for 56 yards, was the Outstanding Player for Haynesville (11-3). HHS made its first title-game appearance since winning the 1A title in 2009. Tyus Early ran for a team-high 66 yards on 10 carries for HHS.
Much of the year the OCS defense has been overshadowed by an offense that averaged better than 40 points. On this night, the Eagles defense was not an afterthought. OCS defenders hounded Jackson and limited the Golden Tornado to 217 total yards, including 122 rushing.
While the four fumbles slowed Ouachita Christian, the Eagles still managed 338 yards of total offense. Tanner Pennebaker and Bristo had interceptions for the Ouachita Christian defense.
“It’s very simple; the best team won tonight,” Haynesville coach David Franklin said. “We shot ourselves in the foot in a lot of situations. They are good in all phases of the game, and they made us do some things we’re not used to doing. But we certainly had some opportunities tonight.”
Haynesville scored in the final seconds of the first half to take an 8-7 lead. The first quarter was scoreless as Haynesville held OCS on fourth down at its 12 on one possession.
The Eagles drove to the HHS 22 on another drive before Keandre Harris recovered a fumble for the Golden Tornado.
It was one of three first-half fumble recoveries for Harris. Ironically, a turnover deep in its own territory led to Ouachita Christian’s lone first-half score. Tanner Pennebaker intercepted a Jackson pass at the OCS 3 and returned it 80 yards.
Webb ran for 17 yards on the Eagles’ first offensive play and scored on a 1-yard run on the next play. Luke Albritton’s point-after kick gave Ouachita Christian a 7-0 with 7:01 left in the first half.
The Eagles soon forced Haynesville to punt. But HHS’ Harris made another big play, recovering a muffed punt at the OCS 39.
Seven plays later, the Golden Tornado took the lead. Kendrick Jackson scored on a 5-yard run and CaVontae Critton ran for the two-point conversion with 37 seconds, giving HHS an 8-7 lead.
Ouachita Christian took the second-half kickoff and drove 69 yards in 10 plays to score. Bristo’s 20-yard pass to Reed Robertson was the biggest play. Again, Webb scored on a 1-yard run. Albritton’s PAT made it 14-8 with 7:54 left in the third quarter.
Jackson’s 32-yard kickoff return put HHS near midfield. The Golden Tornado executed a fake punt to keep the drive going. But on fourth-and-6 at the OCS 17, Jackson’s pass fell incomplete.
A fumble recovery by Tony Critton gave Haynesville another key chance. HHS took over at the OCS 46 and drove all the way to the Eagle 3. On fourth-and-goal, Jackson’s pass to Early also was incomplete.
From there, Ouachita Christian put the game away. The Eagles drove 97 yards in 14 plays. This time, Webb scored on an 18-yard run to make it 20-8. Three plays later, Bristo intercepted a Jackson pass with 1:11 remaining in the game.