When the Haughton Buccaneers look back on their 27-17 Class 5A semifinal loss to the Destrehan Wildcats on Friday night in Destrehan, they will certainly lament some missed opportunities.
The Bucs advanced inside the Wildcats 20 five times without scoring a touchdown. An overall gutsy effort on the road couldn’t quite overcome that.
But when the Bucs look back at the season and the impact 23 seniors had on the program, there will be nothing but great memories.
Haughton, the No. 11 seed, finished 11-3. It was the Bucs’ first ever appearance in the Class 5A semifinals and first in the semifinals period since 1990 when they were in Class 3A.
The senior class contributed to 27 victories in three years.
“They put our program in the conversation with the top teams in the state of Louisiana,” Haughton head coach Jason Brotherton said. “They averaged nine wins a year which is unbelievable. Just proud of them. It’s been a fun ride with those guys. It’s a great core group of players for us.”
Destrehan (11-3), the No. 7 seed, will face No. 1 Acadiana (14-0) for the state championship next week in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Wreckin’ Rams defeated No. 5 seed and two-time defending state champion Zachary 21-14 in the other semifinal.
Haughton trailed 13-10 at the half and 20-10 at the end of the third quarter. Destrehan extended the lead to 27-10, but the Bucs didn’t go down without a fight.
A 14-yard touchdown pass from Peyton Stovall to CJ McWilliams cut the lead to 10 with just over three minutes left.
McWilliams then recovered the onside kick. Stovall completed two passes but the second one was fumbled and Destrehan recovered at the 13.
The Haughton defense forced a punt and the Bucs moved deep into Wildcats territory again. An interception in the end zone ended the threat.
“It was just a great effort,” Brotherton said. “Our kids kept fighting. There was a point in there I thought if we don’t fumble we’re fixing to win the game. I think if we had scored again I think we could’ve stopped them and had a chance. Just the fact that they kept battling that’s what I was proud of.”
Haughton had a couple of other scoring opportunities in the second half. One ended with a fumble inside the 10 on third and goal when the Bucs trailed 20-10. Penalties derailed the other.
“You play a semifinal game against a really good team you’ve got to take advantage of every chance you get,” Brotherton said. “You’ve got to make plays. You can’t turn it over. We turned it over three times. They didn’t turn it over any. At the end of the day that’s pretty much the difference in the game.”
Haughton’s defense made some big stops, but Wildcats running back Kyle Williams proved to be hard to handle. The Alabama commit rushed for 202 yards and scored three TDs on runs of 49, 40 and 5 yards.
“He’s the real deal,” Brotherton said. “He’s a good player. Runs hard. He’s fast. He’s physical. Never falls backwards. Every play he falls forward.”
Unable to get anything going on the ground, the Bucs were forced to go to the air and had a lot of success. According to stats kept by The Times, Stovall attempted 49 passes and completed 32 for 354 yards.
Senior receiver Tristan Sweeney caught 15 passes for 155 yards. McWilliams had seven receptions for 82 yards and Matthew Whitten had eight for 79.
Carter Jensen kicked a 35-yard field goal that gave the Bucs a 10-7 lead in the second quarter. The field goal came just after a Stovall TD pass to Whitten was erased by a penalty.