WELSH — The 25-year drought for the Welsh Greyhounds is over.
No. 1 Welsh converted two turnovers into 14 fourth-quarter points to beat No. 4 Many 28-18 on Friday and advance to the Class 2A state championship game next week at the Superdome.
The Greyhounds will face No. 6 St. Helena Academy in the Dome at noon Friday. St. Helena beat No. 2 Ferriday 12-6 in the other semifinal.
Welsh last played in the Superdome in 1992, when the Dutton Wall-coached Greyhounds lost 34-27 to Coushatta for the 2A state title.
“I can’t even explain it,” Richardson said. “Myself when I was a little kid in ninth grade, all ever wanted to do was to make it to the Dome.
“To make it there tonight has not even sunk in. It is a great feeling. They (Many) are really good football team and they made some adjustments. They are a heck of a team and it is a shame that somebody had to lose tonight.”
Clinging to a 14-12 lead in the fourth quarter, junior defensive back Austyn Benoit intercepted Many’s Brock Booker with 9:28 left in the game. A 15-yard personal foul pushed the Greyhounds back to the Many 41, but four plays later, senior quarterback Zach Hayes scored from 9 yards out to give Welsh some breathing room, 21-12, with 6:46 left.
Hayes rushed for 93 of his 100 yards in the second half and completed 11 of 19 passes for 139 yards and two scores.
“The defense made some big stops and stepped up in the second half,” Richardson said. “I told our older guys that they had to step up in the second half and make plays and Hayes did a good job running, but it was also our offensive line.”
Many tried to pull a reverse on the ensuing kickoff but fumbled the ball away and Alec Iguess scored on a 6-yard run to put the Greyhounds up 28-12 with 5:44 left.
Many put a scare into the Greyhounds to start the second half when it marched 80 yards in 13 plays, powered by the legs of UCLA commitment A.J. Carter. He gained 71 of his 208 yards on the drive, including a 4-yard score with 6 minutes left in the third quarter. But a bad snap on the extra point kept Welsh in the lead 14-12.
Carter scored on a 33-yard run with 2:02 left in the game but Benoit batted down the 2-point conversion pass intended for Shacori Collier to kept it a two-possession game.
Many used a 19 play, 63-yard drive to take a 6-0 lead with 8:38 left in the second quarter on a 4-yard run by Carter. Many converted on third down three times and twice on fourth down in the 19-play, 63-yard drive.
But it was all Greyhounds the rest of the first half. Barely 3 minutes after Many took the lead, Hayes found wide receiver Da’ren Zeno wide open for a 20-yard touchdown on a risky fourth-and-8 play with 5:40 left in the second quarter.
Welsh’s defense forced a punt on Many’s next drive and Dominic Prudhomme was able to get a hand on a Parker Founds kick to give the Greyhounds a short field at their own 49. Three plays after a 30-yard reception by Zeno on third down, Hayes connected with Tamorick Jackson for a 15-yard score and a 14-6 lead.