The No. 23 seed Parkway Panthers came up just short of pulling off a big upset in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs Friday night, falling to No. 10 Ouachita Parish 37-35 in Monroe.
Parkway finished the season 5-5 in Neil May’s second year as head coach. Ouachita Parish (8-3) will visit No. 7 Terrebonne in the second round.
“Our kids played really well,” May said. “We had a chance and it didn’t go our way.”
Parkway finished with 512 total yards.
Senior quarterback Amani Larry, who missed most of the regular season with a leg injury, finished his career in style. He completed 12 of 28 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns.
Senior Kobe Gill caught four passes for 178 yards, including touchdown grabs of 70 and 86 yards in the second half. The 86-yarder was Parkway’s final TD with 2:03 left in the game.
The Lions recovered an onside kick and were able to run out the clock.
Senior Chase Turner caught three passes for 83 yards, including a 14-yard TD.
Sophomore Jamall Asberry rushed for 90 yards on 24 carries and scored on a 5-yard run in the second quarter. Senor Rayshion Cook also scored on a 22-yard run in the second.
The game was tight all the way. Parkway scored on its first drive. The Panthers had a chance to go up 14-0 but failed to score on a fourth-and-goal at the 1 late in the first quarter.
Parkway led 21-14 late in the second quarter, but Ouachita scored on a 68-yard run with just 27 seconds left in the half to tie it.
In a game of big plays, one of the biggest came early in the third quarter. Asberry ran for 11 yards to the Ouachita 36.
“There’s a pile and he’s driving his legs,” May said. “And he gets to a point where the pile stops and the official that was standing there was yelling, ‘He’s down; he’s down,’ so our O linemen back off and one of their kids takes the ball from Jamall and runs it back for a touchdown. And that play stood. No whistle but the official’s yelling, ‘He’s down,’ stuff like that. A play like that changes the outcome of the game.”
The Lions missed the PAT and led 27-21. The Panthers proceeded to answer with a four-play, 82-yard drive capped by Gill’s 70-yard TD catch. Luis Espino gave Parkway a 28-27 lead with 8:21 left in the third quarter.
But Ouachita came right back and regained the lead at 34-28. The Lions added a 25-yard field goal with 6:57 to play.
The Panthers failed to convert fourth downs a couple of times. Senior Arthur Joseph intercepted a pass at the Ouachita 6 and Gill caught the 86-yard TD pass on fourth-and-2.
Seniors Kaybien Smallwood and Ted Nelams led the Parkway defense, according to Parkway stats. Smallwood was in on 14 tackles and Nelams 11. Nelams also recovered two fumbles.
Senior Alexavier Mitchell, junior Adam Johnson and senior Kyle Scott were all in on six tackles. Senors Kentravious Morris and Victor Clark were in on five each. Junior Isaiah Robinson recovered a fumble.
May will have to say goodbye to about 30 seniors. He said that group left a strong legacy. Parkway had one of the biggest regular-season wins in school history in Week 3, defeating Arkansas power Pulaski Academy 30-22. It’s Pulaski’s only loss so far this season.
But there is more to the seniors’ legacy than that, May said.
“I think this was the first senior class at Parkway in a long time that didn’t have one or two or more big-time Division I players,” he said. “It was a senior class that just had a bunch of kids that are just good high school football players.”
He said the program has come a long way since losing to Barbe 52-6 in the first round of the playoffs last year in Lake Charles.
“Last year when we left Barbe we were nowhere even close to being able to compete with a good state-level team,” May said. “I told these seniors, ‘Hey, you brought us through some injuries, some difficulties, some adversity and we just played the No. 10 seed until the last snap.’ I feel like these kids were a group of kids that were fighters and they fought to get our program back where we want it. I think they’re just the tip of the sword of where we’re going.”