By Jesse Brooks
The Kentwood Kangaroo football season came to an end last Thursday, December 7 as they lost to top-seeded West St. John 20-14 in the LHSAA 1A State Championship. The game was the first loss for the Roos since they fell 21-14 to Loranger in the season opener.
Much of the game was a defensive battle hinging on which team would break first. A stout run defense for the Rams turned out to be a key to victory over the Roos.
“I think the penalties and sloppiness did us in,” said Kentwood Head Coach Jonathan Foster. “Not even the turnovers. We have them on the goal line and we get a five-yard penalty. You can’t have that. I think this was our sloppiest game all year and we picked the wrong game to be sloppy.”
Down 20-14 in the fourth quarter, Kentwood could have taken the lead on any of their final four drives before the end of regulation. On their third drive, a 42-yard keeper by quarterback Larenz Morris got the Roos inside the red zone, but he was later picked off near the goal line by Ram defensive back Trenton Grow.
Despite the costly turnover, the Roos defense rallied to force a quick punt. When the offense took the field on their own 47-yard line with 1:20 left to play, Trey Palmer caught a pass that would have set up the offense on the 11-yard line. However, an ineligible man downfield call negated the opportunity. On the following play, Morris’ pass was picked off to seal the victory for the Rams.
In total, Kentwood collected 18 penalty calls for 95 yards. By comparison, the Rams only committed five penalties for 37 yards. The penalties tell an unfortunate story for the Roos despite out-gaining West St. John 254 to 224 yard of total offense.
The Roos, a young junior led team, also experienced a rough start to the game as Morris threw an interception on their first possession that would set up the Rams’ first touchdown.
However, the Roos did have moments of brilliance after getting settled on the big stage. On their scoring drive, Morris completed a pass over 40 yards down the sideline to Raddarian Robbins to get the Roos inside the five-yard line. Despite a penalty that would push them back, the Roos got on the board on fourth-and-goal when Morris rolled right and completed an 11-yard touchdown pass to Robbins at the start of the second quarter to tie the game 7-7.
The Roos nearly went up by two scores, but that opportunity was missed as Palmer dropped a sure touchdown pass on a deep slant a possession later. Instead of creating a comfortable lead, the Roos were back in the hole as Morris went on to throw a pick six with 8:15 left to go in the second quarter.
The Rams jumped ahead 20-7 soon after the intermission as running back Kylan Duhe capped off a drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. Duhe, who totaled 120 yards on the ground on 29 carries and two touchdowns, was given the Outstanding Player Award for West St. John.
Morris was named for the Outstanding Player Award to represent the Roos postgame. He completed 8-of-26 passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns in the air while rushing for 91 yards. Robbins was the top receiver with five catches for 69 yards. Palmer had one catch for 16 yards, a touchdown reception to cut the Rams’ lead to 20-14 with 5:17 left in the third quarter.
Larry Carter finished with 39 yards rushing on 12 carries.
The championship appearance was the second one for Kentwood in three seasons. In 2015, the Roos defeated Haynesville 40-7 to bring home the title.
The Roos are expected to return 11 seniors next season.