Roos rally in second half, advance to semifinals

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The Kentwood Kangaroos are making their second straight LHSAA 1A Semifinal appearance since winning the 1A Championship in 2015. 

By Jesse Brooks

The third seeded Kentwood Kangaroos shutout No. 6 Haynesville for the last three straight quarters of last Friday’s Quarterfinal of the LHSAA Class 1A playoffs, resulting in a final score of 14-10.
Much of the game was a stiff defensive matchup, and Haynesville held the early advantage when running back Kavacion Webster broke loose on a 40yard touchdown run that resulted in a touchdown with 6:33 remaining in the period. Sergio Hardwell scored on the ensuing 2-pt. conversion to put Haynesville up 8-0.
The Haynesville defense was responsible for their next score as they forced the Roos to fumble while backed into their own end zone. The ball would roll out-of-bounds, resulting in a safety for Haynesville.
Though both teams struggled on offense, the Roos began having success running the ball with junior running back Larry Carter. Carter, feeling 100 percent, turned in a dominant performance, rushing for 126 yards on the ground on 23 carries.
Carter was the first to put the Roos on the board by capping off a drive with a 3-yard touchdown run with 4:50 left in the first half. Following the extra point, the Roos would cut into Haynesville’s lead 10-7, resulting in the halftime score.
As both teams continued to shut each other down through stout defense for a majority of the second half, it would just take a small offensive edge to win the match. At the 5:45 mark in the third quarter, the Roos found a break in Haynesville’s armor when quarterback Lorenz Morris finished off a drive with a 7-yard touchdown keeper. After the extra point, the Roos got the 14-10 advantage they needed as their defense successfully shutout Haynesville for the remainder of regulation playing time.
The victory marks the third consecutive season of reaching the Semifinal round for the Roos. In 2015, the Roos won the Class 1A Championship led by quarterback Shyheim Carter.
This Friday Kentwood will face No. 2 Oak Grove on the road. In the previous round, Oak Grove defeated No. 6 Basile 34-6. Kickoff for Friday is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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St. Helena stuns Amite to move on to Semifinals

fullsizeoutput_399FLYING HIGH- Hawks senior running back Aaron Hurst totaled 94 yards on the ground and two touchdowns in St. Helena’s 35-32 upset over Amite to advance to the Class 2A Semifinals. Photo by Jesse Brooks.

By Jesse Brooks

The sixth seeded St. Helena Hawks upset the No. 3 Amite Warriors last Friday night in the Quarterfinal round of the LHSAA Class 2A postseason with a final score of 35-32. In week eight of the regular season, Amite defeated St. Helena 19-12, ending the hawks chances of earning a second straight District 9-2A title.
Even with a high scoring affair, the Hawks were able to get the win through their trademark defensive playmaking. The Hawks grabbed a total of four interceptions. Senior defensive back Troy Hurst accounted for two picks, including one inside the final minute that sealed the deal for St. Helena.
“We’ve been talking all week about staying fast on them,” Hawks head coach Brandon Brown said about preparing for their rivals for a second time. “That’s a great football team, but they hadn’t played from behind all season. That was our whole game plan. Let’s get up on them and make them work for it.”
Even though the Hawks held a lead for the majority of the game, the Warriors owned all of the early momentum. As the Hawks were able to move the ball efficiently throughout the first half, they often stalled out on fourth down conversions in the red zone.
The Warriors’ first quarter touchdown would be setup by the Warriors defense after junior Devonta Lee stripped hawks quarterback Ricky Travis to take over on the 45-yard line. Following a run by senior running back Sylvester Carrol to pick up the first down and more, junior quarterback Cameron Henderson connected with Lee for a 10-yard touchdown pass to give Amite a 6-0 lead with seven and a half minutes left in the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, the Hawks offense stalled out deep in Warriors’ territory thanks crucial third down stop by junior defensive tack Ishmael Sopsher, but the Hawks came alive as Aaron Hurst, in at linebacker, came up with the pick six after the Warriors took possession. After scoring on the following conversion, the Hawks took the lead 8-6 with 6:04 left in the first half.
The Hawks began hit the gas pedal after intermission as Troy Hurst picked off Henderson on the first Warrior drive of the second half. Soon after, senior running back Jeremy Griffin scampered for a 25-yard touchdown run. With 11:05 to play in the third quarter, the Hawks increased their lead to 14-6.
In an effort to respond, Henderson successfully connected with Lee on a 50-yard touchdown bomb on their next possession, but the Warriors would fail to score the conversion as the Hawks would still lead 14-12.
Taking advantage of their lead, the Hawks went on to score 13 unanswered points. Troy Hurst had huge return and a 25-yard touchdown run that setup an Aaron Hurst’s 2-yard touchdown run under four minutes left in the third. Aaron Hurst, who totaled 94 yards on the ground, scored again on an 11-yard touchdown a possession later with 1:21 left in the third.
Going into the final period, Henderson connected with junior receiver Kyle Maxwell deep, and again a second time for a 20-yard touchdown reception to cut the Hawk lead 27-18 with 11:50 remaining. The Warriors moved closer by regaining possession by recovering a forced fumble on a sack attempt. Henderson found Maxwell again for another touchdown with 9:44 to go, cutting into the Hawk lead 27-24.
A horse collar call on the next Hawks possession would help set up a 22-yard Troy Hurst into the end zone to push their lead up to 35-24 with 4:17 left.
Henderson immediately responded with a kickoff return that got the Warriors across midfield. A couple of plays later, Henderson scored on a 2-yard keeper to once again cut the score to 35-32 with 3:39 left to play.
The Warriors appeared poised for a game winner by forcing a quick three-and-out, and marching deep into Hawk territory inside a minute after gaining possession. However, Troy Hurst sealed the game for the Hawks by making a diving interception with :50 left in regulation.
“It was a very good season,” Warriors head coach Zephaniah Powell said. “We had some kids that were injured early. We played our way through it and didn’t complain about it. We hated the way it had to end, but St. Helena is a good team.”
Powell also confirmed that safety Tyrus Wheat was up and walking around on the sideline after an in-game injury. Wheat missed a portion of the second half with a concussion.
“We are a junior led team. We have a deep class of sophomores too,” Powell said. “We’re excited about the future. That’s not something I thought I’d be talking about right now, but we’re excited for what’s down the line.”
Now that Amite has been eliminated, the Hawks will move on to the Semifinals for a second straight season. This Friday they will travel to face No. 2 Ferriday, who defeated No. 10 Red River 52-0 last week.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

OFA Boys upset defending champs Hillcrest Christian in season opener

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LIGHTS OUT- Junior OFA shooting guard LaVell Scott led all scorers with 27 points in a 62-55 overtime upset over defending MAIS AAAA State Champion Hillcrest Christian. Photo by Jesse Brooks.

By Jesse Brooks

Junior shooting guard LaVell Scott led all scorers with 27 points in the season opening victory as the Oak Forest Academy boys basketball team upset MAIS AAAA defending champions Hillcrest Christian 62-55 on the road in Jackson, Mississippi on Monday, November 20. Point guard Janero Porter contributed key buckets as he finished as the Jackets’ second leading scorer with 13 points.
“We felt this win would be huge for the confidence of our guys going forward,” OFA Coach Curtis Matherne said. “This is my third year playing these guys. We haven’t always been on the winning side much. So this one feels good.”
Early on OFA showed they can match pace with an athletic Hillcrest team that likes to run by closing out the first quarter with a 20-9 lead. As the Hillcrest defense begin to settle, they were able to creep back into the fold as a fast break dunk cut OFA’s lead to 22-19 under four minutes remaining in the first half.
After Porter finished a floater in the lane, the two teams traded scores once more and were all tied up 28-28 at the half.
Though Scott’s outside shot was not falling in the first half, he began to get more aggressive after intermission, showing quickness on drives. Power forward Carter Blanchard also chipped in by keeping plays alive with offensive rebounds on missed shots.
Near the end of the third, OFA held a slight lead due to a steal by Porter on the inbounds pass that started a fast break that ended in a basket under the goal by Scott. However, Hillcrest scored on a breakaway steal to tie it up 38-38 just before the final quarter began.
In the fourth, Tucker Miller and Braxton McGovern earned back-to-back buckets inside to set the offensive tone for OFA. Hillcrest soon took a 48-47 lead with the clock running after OFA fouled a shooter and a shot from the field lost their advantage.
Forward Chris Backa then got into the mix by getting on the boards and earning a putback to trail Hillcrest 48-47. After a drive and score by Porter, and a clutch 3-pt. make by Scott, OFA led 52-50 with 1:49 left in regulation. After Hillcrest tied up the game at the line, the two teams went into overtime 52-52.
OFA quickly took charge in the extra period when Porter hit a clutch 3-pointer to go up 55-52. Backa muscled in a basket on an offensive rebound with 1:16 remaining that seemed to put the final nail in the competition.
“We still have things to clean up. It’s game one,” Matherne said. “But it’s a great win and I’m really proud of our guys.”
OFA returns to action on Tuesday, November 28 with another road game against Silliman Institute. They open their home schedule on December 2, hosting East Rankin.

OFA Boys Hoops ready to build on recent success

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THE BIG FOUR- Building off of last season’s success, Oak Forest Academy Boys Basketball hopes to take another step forward. Pictured from left: Seniors Carter Blanchard, Janero Porter and Chris Backa; and junior LaVell Scott and head coach Curtis Matherne. Photo by Jesse Brooks

By Jesse Brooks

Last season the Oak Forest Academy boys basketball team experienced one of their most successful season’s in program history, making a deep run in the MAIS AAAA State Championship tournament and qualifying for the MAIS Overall Tournament.
“I would say last year we took a big step for us,” fifth-year OFA Head Coach Curtis Matherne said at the team’s media day. “We won 20 plus games and knocked off the three-time state champions in the playoffs. This is a good group to coach. They’re a deep team, and I think we’re going to take another step forward this season.”
Last season, star senior swingman Reggie Johnson led the Jackets and played well enough to earn an offer to play for Lamar Community College in Colorado. Despite the departure of Johnson, the rise of OFA’s starting backcourt with senior point guard Janero Porter and junior shooting guard LaVell Scott are expected to fill the void.
Scott, who has an official offer on the table from Southern, played point guard last season but is looking forward to shifting into his most natural position now that Porter is healthy.
“I can do both, and I don’t think there are any weaknesses in my game,” Scott said. “But I do want to focus more on defense this year. My main mindset is to score, but I can do whatever is asked of me.”
Porter mostly saw time as a sixth man last season, but his minutes were limited due to a knee injury that occurred in the offseason. Now that he is “100 percent healthy”, he will look to be a compliment to the scoring nature of Scott.
“I like to move the ball up the floor and look for the open man. I’m a pure pass first point guard.” Porter said. “I also hope to get better defensively and get points off of steals.”
With a pair of guards that push the pace, Matherne said that he has changed the philosophy of the Jackets’ approach on both sides of the ball.
“I think we’re going to play a more uptempo type game this year than what you’ve seen in the past because of our depth and skill,” Matherne said.
Matherne also said defensively you can expect to see more pressing and an emphasis to get points in transition.
As heavy as the Jackets look to be in the guard rotation, they feel they have found balance with the addition of forward Chris Backa, a 6-foot-7 transfer student from Finland. Backa missed all of last season while sitting out under MAIS transfer rules, but is ready to take the court as a starter for OFA.
“I can say that American basketball is more physical and faster, where as it is more technical in Europe,” Backa said. “I have always watched American basketball and I think I already had an American play style.”
In a parish dominated by attention to football, OFA feels like their style of play can bring more attention to the hardwood. Matherne says the program will host theme nights including alumni, first responder and military nights.
“I would just say come out and see thing young athletes and there never will be a dull moment,” Matherne said.
OFA will open their season this Monday on the road facing MAIS AAAA defending champion Hillcrest Christian in Jackson, Mississippi. The Jackets will open their home schedule on December 2 against East Rankin Academy with a tip-off time set around 7 p.m.