SLIDELL Shaw took advantage of a controversial penalty on Salmen with no time left on the clock during Friday night's Class 4A semifinal, holding off the Spartans on an untimed down to move into the championship game with a 14-10 win.
Salmen reached the goal line after a 48-yard completion that came with fewer than 20 seconds to play. Jamal Robinson caught a tipped pass at the 6 before being brought down at the goal line.
With five seconds remaining and Salmen situated a few inches from a victory, Spartans sophomore quarterback Daniel Sams plunged into the end zone for what appeared to be the game-winning score.
But the referee pulled his flag almost immediately, issuing a rarely-called five yard "aiding the runner" penalty on Salmen, nixing the touchdown and putting the Spartans at the 6-yard line with an untimed down to play.
Sams found Errol Scott open in the right flat, but Shaw's Chad Boyd stopped the running back at the 2, ending the game and sending the Eagles (9-4) back to the 4A championship game for the third consecutive year. They'll face Belle Chasse for the second time this season.
"I think it was a very fortunate call for Archbishop Shaw to call," Eagles head coach Scott Bairnsfather said. "My gut reaction is it's a bad way for Coach (Jerry) Leonard and Salmen to lose this game."
He added, "I've been asking for that call to be called a thousand times and I've never seen it called, particularly in that situation."
Leonard walked off the field, preferring not to talk following the tough loss. Salmen fell to 10-3 and a game short of the Superdome.
The Eagles wouldn't be heading back, however, if not for Boyd and a resurgent Shaw defense that found its footing midway through a season that started out 0-4.
Boyd picked off two passes in the end zone and made two touchdown-saving stops inside the 5 - one coming on fourth-and-goal from the 3 in the third quarter, the other coming on the game's final play.
"Chad's our guy," Bairnsfather said. "If we need somebody to come up with a big stop on defense or a big play or an interception or big tackle at some point in the game, it's got to be him. We count on Chad to come up big in those situations."
Said Boyd, "I don't know what to say. I can't even speak. It's exciting."
A knock-down, drag-out fight was expected heading into this one. A packed Spartans Stadium got what they paid for as they watched two metro area heavy-weights trade punches.
Salmen got things started immediately. On Shaw's opening possession, defensive lineman Malcolm Pichon intercepted Eagles quarterback Kyle Keating.
A play later, Salmen went for broke, calling a halfback pass. It worked. Scott found Isiah Tate open for a 38-yard completion. A play later, Sams darted around right end and into the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
The Spartans extended their lead to 10-0 with 9:17 to go in the opening half on Chris Gulino's 24-yard field goal.
Salmen's Curtis Owens intercepted Keating on Shaw's next play, returning it to the Eagles' 12. But three plays netted no yards and on third-and-10, Boyd came through with his first end-zone interception.
Shaw's offense responded, marching 55 yards in 11 plays before Salmen forced a fourth-and-1 from its 25. Bairnsfather gambled and it worked. The Spartans sold out for a run and Keating, taking advantage of a play-action call, hit Demarko Baldwin for a 25-yard touchdown.
Boyd came through again on Salmen's second possession of the third quarter. Eleven plays moved Salmen to the 3, but on fourth-and-goal, Boyd stuffed Sams for no gain.
The Eagles' answer? A 10-play, 97-yard drive that included an interception of Keating that was given back to the Eagles after a fumble by Salmen's David Edgerson.
Keating hit Lawrence Breaud for a 17-yard touchdown that gave Shaw a 14-10 lead with 5:46 left in the game. It ended up being the game-winning points.
"I felt a little pressure and scrambled to buy time and he ended up getting open so I just threw the ball to him and he caught it for a touchdown," said Keating, who finished 9-of-20 for 171 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions.
Salmen tried to answer, getting to the Shaw 20 before Sams took a 15-yard loss on a sack by Sean Connors. A play later, Boyd intercepted Sams in the end zone for the second time.
Sams finished the game 7-of-14 for 117 yards and two interceptions as well as 123 yards and a score on 25 carries.
The Spartans defense held on the ensuing series, setting up a finish that no one could have predicted.
"Our defense hung tough pretty much the whole game except for a couple of big plays," Bairnsfather said. "At the end, we were very fortunate they called aiding the runner. They tried to push the quarterback over. It's unfortunate for Salmen.
"They had a chance to win the game. To get a penalty like that, it's lucky on our part and we're fortunate to be going to the Dome next week."
Bradley Handwerger can be reached at or 504-529-6439.