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Photograph: Opelousas High School quarterback Zach Malveaux and defensive back Landon Hammond. Photographs by Bobby Ardoin.)

Editor/Consulting Writer

Opelousas High slipped into the driver’s seat in District 5-4A Friday night as the Tigers’ defense placed the keys into the ignition.

Despite not scoring in the second half, Opelousas managed to stop the Cecilia High offense when necessary during the final quarter, as the Tigers captured a program signature victory at Donald Gardner Stadium.

“This win was huge. We talk about a championship every week and now we have a chance to go out and break down that wall,” said Opelousas High head football coach Jimmy Zachery, Jr. following the 21-16 victory over Cecilia.

Opelousas (7-1, 2-0) travels to Breaux Bridge this Friday night for another district contest. The Tigers, ranked No. 2 this week in the Division II non-select power rankings, return to Donald Gardner Stadium to play Beau Chene in Week 10.

The win was also the seventh consecutive victory this season for Opelousas. Cecilia (6-2, 2-1) has won three straight district championships under head coach Dennis Skains.

Zachery said the Tigers’ defense spotted Cecilia quarterback Germonie Davis for most of the game, limiting the Bulldogs’ top rusher to 27 yards on nine carries.

Davis entered the Opelousas game with 312 rushing yards and another 351 passing.

“We came into the game knowing that we had to stop (Davis). He became their quarterback after (starter) Diesel Solari was hurt. We were spying (Davis) the whole game. I thought Travis Esprit, who was assigned to (Davis), did a great job,” Zachery said.

Overall Cecilia was limited to 108 rushing yards and another 75 passing.

“I thought our defense did a good job in coverages and our d-line did a good job of bottling things up. Right now I feel our program is miles ahead, as young as we are. I thought we had a young team last year with nine freshmen playing, but these guys came in used to winning and now they are proving what they did in the recreation league was right,” Zachery said.

Offensively Opelousas managed to again control the game clock, devouring almost eight minutes on the first possession that ended 72 yards and 14 plays later on a 13-yard Zach Malveaux touchdown run.

Sophomore running back De’Shaun Ford, who finished with 172 rushing yards, cut through a seam in the Cecilia defense and burst through the second tier for a 77-yard scoring run. The second point after kick from Dontay Washington gave Opelousas a 14-0 lead.

Opelousas High School running back DeShaun Ford. (Photograph by Bobby Ardoin.)

Cecilia gained momentum late in the second period after a high punt snap eluded Washington who fell on the ball in the end zone for a safety.

The Bulldogs just over a minute later quickly moved 63 yards in three plays scoring on a double pass from Stewart Ellis to Isiah Champagne as four minutes and 18 seconds remained before halftime.

Opelousas responded with a rapid 65-yard scoring drive that proved to be the difference in the game.

Malveaux threw a 31-yard touchdown completion to Mekhi Jones who wrestled the throw away from the Bulldogs’ defender and flipped into the end zone with the ball. The touchdown with a second remaining before the intermission was the last for Opelousas.

In the second half the Tigers used the opening possession to move down to the Cecilia 8-yard line, but the eight-minute drive stalled after a penalty.

Cecilia’s Davon Dugas scored on a pass and lateral with 11:43 remaining to cut the Opelousas advantage to five points.

After that the Tigers’ defense assumed control, stopping the Bulldogs on a fake punt at the Cecilia 18 and then Landon Hammond crashed down on Davis at the Cecilia 13 with a minute 37 left.