A whole slew of pass interference calls at the end of the game made things a lot more interesting than perhaps Westgate High School head football coach Ryan Antoine desired, but the battle-tested Tigers came back from the Shreveport area before dawn Saturday morning with a 34-32 win over Northwood High School to advance to the Class 4A semifinals.
“Very hard-fought game for us,” Antoine said. “Guys are spent, and coaches. We just felt like we found a way to get through it, and now we’re on to the semifinals.”
The fifth-seeded Tigers, who improved to 11-2 with their sixth straight win, face an even bigger challenge this week when they travel to New Orleans to face top seed Edna Karr (11-0), which beat No. 9 George Washington Carver 33-7 in the quarterfinals.
“They’re a team with a lot of tradition, a lot of legacy, known for winning,” Antoine said of Karr. “That’s one of the other notches we have to get through. If you want to go to the state championship (game), you’ve got to go through them. We’ve got to go match their intensity, match what they’re going to do.”
Antoine said he knows the Cougars are eager to get back to the state championship after falling to Carencro in the state championship game in 2020.
“I know they’ve been talking about that all year, that’s a goal for them to go back there and redeem themselves,” Antoine said.
At No. 4 seed Northwood, Damarion Davis forced a turnover and Steven Antoine converted that into a touchdown run for the tigers’ first points. Travin Gardner added an interception after another WHS TD, and a trick play saw Brennan Landry throw a touchdown pass to Amaaz Eugene for a 21-7 lead going into the half. After Danny Lewis made a big catch, Derek Williams punched the ball in for a 28-7 lead. Antoine said Gardner and Eugene had huge games, and Landry came in and made some big throws, strengthening the team’s faith in its two-quarterback system along with Jordan Doucet.
The score rapidly got tight after that. Very tight.
“With three minutes left to go in the third quarter we were up 28-7,” Antoine said. “Things kind of just started getting crazy. We started getting a little lax on both sides of the ball. Northwood didn’t give up, and made it a game, and before you know it, it was 28-26 in the fourth quarter.”
Zyion Madison then forced a fumble that Garder picked up for a touchdown, making it 34-26.
“We kind of once again had the game in hand, and they came out with less than 30-something seconds and got the ball down the field with deep passes and penalties, and scored with no time left, on an untimed down because of a pass interference call,” Antoine said. “They called four straight pass interference calls at the end of the game, so they ended up scoring to make it 34-32. They went for the 2-point conversion, and Travin Gardner, who had a lights-out game, deflected the ball for us to win the game.”
The Falcons finished the season 9-3.
Though Karr is a tough challenge, the Tigers have been tested all season by a schedule that included St. Martinville, which advanced to the 3A semifinals this week, and Lafayette Christian, which will play for the Division III championship on Saturday at Tulane’s Yulman Stadium. Also on the schedule were Carencro, which reached the second round in 4A, St. Augustine, a Division I quarterfinalist, and St. Thomas More, a Division II semifinalist.
“It’s something that this group has always wanted, and it’s something that we’ve been preaching all year, getting to the state championship game,” Antoine said. “I definitely think our schedule has put us in this situation. It’s tested us. We’ve played state championship (caliber) teams throughout our schedule. We’ve played top teams. We’ve got to go out there and fight and be prepared to play. I think our guys will be ready for it, and be fired up. That’s a great team that we have.”
Antoine noted he’s been to the semifinals twice as a defensive coordinator for Westgate.
“Anything can happen,” he said. “We played Destrehan one year. I think that was one of the best teams ever in Louisiana history. We had a bad taste in our mouth in 2009 against Rummel when it was 7-6. It was a lights out performance defensively, and things just didn’t go our way.
“We just have to be prepared for it because anything can happen in these type of games now.”