FLYING 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.