Trojans march past Panthers, beat district rival to advance

DRY CREEK — East Beauregard got into another shootout with District 4-1A rival Merryville on Friday in the bi-district round of the Class 1A playoffs and survived with a 50-40 win.

East Beauregard fell behind twice in the first half. The score was tied 28-28 at halftime, but the Trojans defense stepped up in the second half, holding the Panthers to 12 points.

“I thought we faced some adversity in the first half,” East Beauregard head coach Ronald Simmons said. “We had some times where we could have folded, but the kids stepped it up in the second half and executed on offense, and the defense really stepped it up and made some big plays.”

The Trojans (5-6) stopped Merryville’s first two drives of the second half with turnovers. Sean Guillory recovered a fumble barely 3 minutes into the third quarter, and Caleb Johnson picked off a pass 10 seconds into the fourth quarter.

“I am just proud of our defense as a whole,” Simmons said. “The secondary did a good job of keeping things in front of them.

“Merryville made some good plays, and we knew they would. They had a lot of fight, but we limited them and were able to come out with a win. We just kept doing what we were doing. We made a little bit of an adjustment in the secondary, but for the most part, we just did a better job.”

East Beauregard also had a pair of fumble recoveries in the first quarter, but one of their own caught up with Trojans when Amarion Hill scooped one up and returned it 45 yards to tie it up at 6-6 less than 2 minutes into the game. But the Trojans played turnover-free the rest of the way and racked up 434 yards of total offense.

Kane Atkinson led the way with 171 yards and three touchdowns on 34 carries. His last score, a 39-yard run, sealed the win with 2:33 left in the game. Johnson had 92 rushing yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, plus two catches for 59 yards.

“With our offense, we are pretty confident we can move the ball,” Simmons said. “(The fumble) was a setback, but our kids kept their heads up and kept playing hard.

“The key is execution. We feel like if we execute, we can move the ball on pretty much anybody, and we did that tonight.”

Merryville senior Cam’ron Williams willed the Panthers (2-9) back into the game in the second quarter. With the score knotted at 20-20, he sacked East Beauregard for an 11-yard loss, then blocked a punt out of the back of the end zone on the next play for a safety. His 2-yard run and 2-point conversion gave the Panthers a 28-20 lead with 1:35 left. Williams finished with 114 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. Hill caught three passes for 96 yards and two scores.

East Beauregard snapped a four-game losing streak and will face No. 4 Oak Grove (6-4) in the regionals for a third consecutive season. Oak Grove won the previous two meetings handily.

“Any time we can extend our season is a big deal and give our seniors another week to play,” Simmons said. “With it being against Merryville, a rival, it makes it a little bit sweeter, but any playoff win is big.

“We have played in the second round the last few years, and unfortunately, we have faced Oak Grove. This is our third year in a row, and, hopefully, this time, the outcome is a little different.”

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