Crusaders pass Ponchatoula on way to 43-28 win

Crusaders pass Ponchatoula on way to 43-28 win

Credit: Photo by Bradley Handwerger / WWL-TV.com

Ponchatoula quarterback Eldrid Palmer (5) is hit by Brother Martin's Ian Broyard during the Crusaders' 43-28 Class 5A first-round playoff win Friday night.

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by By Bradley handwerger / WWL-TV.com Sports Writer

wwltv.com

Posted on August 19, 2009 at 5:03 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 21 at 4:32 PM

Down by two touchdowns early in the fourth quarter, Brother Martin's Matthew Buchert held his head high, walked to the bench where the offense was sitting and urged his teammates to keep their heads in the game.

It might have been the kick in the pants the Crusaders needed.

Third-seeded Brother Martin scored 30 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, coming from behind to take down Ponchatoula 43-28 Friday night in a Class 5A first round playoff game.

"Once you put your head down, there's no picking it up," Buchert said. "You've got to stay in the fight."

And boy did they.

Brother Martin (9-0) scored on four straight fourth quarter possessions to earn its first playoff win since 2004 and only their second playoff win in 14 years. The Crusaders rolled up 321 second-half yards after being limited to 115 in the first half.

"In the first half, we had a lot of opportunities and we hurt ourselves," Brother Martin head coach Jay Pittman said. "We settled down and realized if we didn't do something, we'd be done."

The Crusaders turned to seniors Garrett Bean and Dalton Hilliard on offense while a defense that had allowed 31 points all season turned the intensity up a notch on the Green Wave (5-5).

"One thing about high school football - when momentum changes, you have to hold on," Ponchatoula head coach Mike Baiamonte said. "That sky kick spun this thing in their direction."

After Brother Martin's Bean connected with Paris Matthews for a 16-yard touchdown, Pittman called for a short but high kick. It worked and Brother Martin corralled the loose ball at the Green Wave 21.

Four plays later, Bean rolled to his right buying time for Matthews to get open in the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown.

Matthews, though, dropped the 2-point conversion and Ponchatoula still held a 28-26 lead with 6:46 to play in the game.

The Crusaders forced a thee-and-out by Ponchatoula and began on their own 25 after a hold on the punt return pushed the ball back. But on the first play, Bean hit tight end Daniel Obioha for a 41 yard pass.

Hilliard did the rest on the next play, eluding tackle after tackle before breaking down the sideline for a 34-yard touchdown run. Bean ran in the 2-point conversion and Brother Martin had its first lead of the game 34-28 with 3:44 to go.

On the ensuing Green Wave possession, Patrick Swilling blocked Russ Bratton's punt and Ponchatoula fell on the ball in the end zone, handing the Crusaders two points and the ball.

It didn't take long for Brother Martin to continue pouring in the points. Fifty-six seconds after the safety, Hilliard broke a sure tackle and dashed in from 45 yards out for the game-clinching touchdown.

Hilliard finished with 142 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries. He ran for more than 100 yards in the second half alone.

"Dalton is a great running back and he's going to fight for everything he gets," Bean said.

But it was Bean who shouldered much of the load in the game. He racked up 248 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Bean was 13-of-18 for 182 of his yards in the decisive half of the game.

"All year long," Pittman said. "All year I trusted Garrett to carry out the game plan. We put him in the fire as a sophomore and this is what we got."

It took a while to get going, however.

Ponchatoula jumped to a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter when Eldrid Palmer threw to Joseph Green for a 9-yard touchdown pass. The score came after a Brother Martin turnover deep in its own territory.

The Green Wave pushed it to 14-0 when Palmer connected with Jacques West over the middle. West did the rest, outrunning three defenders for a 53-yard touchdown.

Brother Martin answered immediately, using a 12-play drive that ended with a 4-yard Hilliard run. The point after was wide, leaving Ponchatoula with a 14-6 lead at halftime.

On the first series of the second half, Ponchatoula's Green burst through the middle of the line for a 74-yard touchdown strike and, for the time, it appeared a 28-6 lead would be plenty for the Green Wave to advance in the playoffs.

The Crusaders, however, had different plans and proved it in the fourth quarter.

Friday was Ponchatoula's first look at the playoffs since 1999, though Baiamonte didn't blame inexperience on the loss.

"We coach too hard and the kids work too hard to say we weren't ready," he said. "Tonight we let it get away from us. They never gave up, never gave in and kept pounding."

Said Pittman, "Getting past the first round is the toughest game."

Brother Martin will play Central-BR in the second round next week.

Bradley Handwerger can be reached at or 504-529-6439.

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