MOSS BLUFF – With Denham Springs facing the prospect of going to overtime in Friday’s Class 5A state playoff game, second-year coach Bill Conides opted to utilize his final timeout.
With Sam Houston lining up for a potential game-tying field goal, Conides wanted to guard against the possibility of a fake or the Broncos sending their offense back on the field with 48 seconds remaining.
“I wanted to make sure we had it secure in case it was a fake,” Conides said. “I knew in these difficult conditions with the wind in his face, they could even send their offense back out.”
Not to worry.
The 34-yard attempt from Sam Houston place-kicker Davis Dow, into a brisk north wind, was short and wide to the left with 37 seconds to play, sending Denham Springs’ sideline and crowd into a frenzy once the realization of the No. 19 Yellow Jackets’ 17-14 first-round upset victory over the No. 14 Broncos became a reality.
“This is the first time we’ve had a lead and kind of started to give it up a bit,” Conides said. “Typically, we’re playing from behind and play better in the second half.”
For the first time in four years Denham Springs (7-4), which won its season-high third-straight game, will host a state regional playoff game, returning home next Friday to host No. 3 Acadiana, a 22-7 winner over No. 30 Live Oak.
“We get a win and the seniors get another home game,” Conides said. “You can’t ask for more than that.”
Denham Springs made a 17-7 halftime lead stand up, capitalizing on three turnovers and relying on the running of Treveon Muse on a soaked natural grass field that deteriorated to mud in certain spots during the second half.
Instead of being able to salt away the game with its offense, Denham Springs turned to its defense for the second straight week.
Sam Houston (8-3), which was hosting its first playoff game since 2009, drove from its own 49-yard line to Denham Springs’ 18-yard line – a possession that lasted 13 plays and nearly five minutes.
The Broncos had first-and-10 at the Yellow Jackets’ 12-yard line before Denham responded with back-to-back stops behind the line of scrimmage against running back Gerron Duhon (37-148) for a total of six yards in losses.
“I’m happy for my teammates and coaches,” said Denham Springs linebacker Davion Nassri, a Southeastern Louisiana commitment. “They’ve all worked hard. Some of the players were crying and it makes me want to cry because they hadn’t done this last year. I’m happy to contribute to a win for us.”
Said Conides, “We were in position all night. They knew their backs were against the wall for the last three weeks. They knew what they had to do, and they made the play. They showed a lot of character.”
The second half was a complete reversal of the opening two quarters where Denham Springs dominated the game with Muse rushing for 125 of his 139 yards and two touchdowns. Sam Houston outgained DSHS 186-46, running 41 plays compared to 18 for the Jackets, who managed three second-half first downs.
The Broncos, who were limited to 41 yards on 25 plays in the first half, scored on their first possession of the third quarter, driving 71 yards in 10 plays, with Duhon scoring from nine yards out, cutting DSHS’ halftime lead to 17-14.
“They never lose faith,” Conides said. “They could have easily said, ‘oh, here we go’. They don’t. It’s not in their DNA. It’s been like that since Day 1.”
Sam Houston got the ball back three times, twice ending drives inside DSHS’ territory, before its final series that ended with the missed field goal.
“We had a rocky start at the beginning, but after a few plays we told ourselves we weren’t going to let that happen like other games and we did that,” Nassri said.
Denham Springs parlayed interceptions from Brycen Longley and Nassri, coupled with a blocked punt, into a 17-7 halftime lead.
Nassri had two of his team’s three interceptions off Sam Houston quarterback Kyle Bartley (8 of 21, 73 yards) in the first half with his second pick leading to an 8-play, 44-yard drive – that place-kicker Jose Ortega converted into points with a 37-yard field goal for a 17-7 lead at the 3:35 mark of the second quarter.
Ortega said he shortened his approach on the kick, trying to avoid slipping on the soggy, muddy turf.
“This was the best defensive game we’ve played all season,” Conides said. “Defense was lights out and Nassri was unreal. Special teams was tremendous. The conditions had a lot to do with us not being able to do what we wanted offensively.”
Longley’s interception came on Sam Houston’s first offensive play, setting up the Jackets with a 10-play, 52-yard drive with Muse doing the majority of the damage on the ground.
Wide receiver DJ Williams (6-47) also contributed a pair of carries for 19 yards, but it was Muse that capped the march with three consecutive carries – the last one covering seven yards for a touchdown on third-and-two.
DSHS’ momentum lasted less than 20 seconds when Marcus Mott returned the ensuing kickoff 79 yards for touchdown that tied the game at 7-7.
The Jackets, who piled up 213 yards on 48 plays, overcame a pair of failed fourth-down attempts in Sam Houston territory when the special teams unit contributed a blocked punt from Nassri that Jackson Hart recovered at the Broncos’ 2-yard line.
Muse promptly scored up the middle on first down.
“I think we’re playing our best football although statistically it didn’t look like it,” Conides said. “But the conditions had a lot to do with that. I’m so proud of these kids.”
DENHAM SPRINGS 17, SAM HOUSTON 14
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Denham Springs 7 10 0 0 – 17
Sam Houston 7 0 7 0 - 14
DSHS – Treveon Muse 7 run (Jose Ortega kick)
SHHS - Marcus Mott 79 kickoff return (Davis Dow kick)
DSHS – Muse 2 run (Ortega kick)
DSHS - Ortega 37 field goal
SHHS – Gerron Duhon 9 run (Dow kick)
16 First Downs 16
44-186 Rushes-Yards 43-144
73 Passing Yards 83
8-21-1 C-A-I 8-24-3
3-35 Punts-Avg. 5-28.8
0-0 Fumbles-Lost 0-0
9-85 Penalties-Yards 7-60