DeRidder traveled to Mandeville and survived a late rally from Lakeshore to win 28-21 to stay alive in the playoffs.
After leading 21-7 at halftime, DeRidder (7-4) allowed 14 unanswered points. Lakeshore (5-5) was about to score 21 unanswered points before a fumble on DeRidder’s own three yard-line was recovered by the Dragons. The next play, DeRidder running back Reid Williams scored on a 97-yard touchdown run.
Williams carried the ball 17 times for 233 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning 97-yard touchdown run with 3:36 left to go in the game.
“It was an awesome playoff atmosphere in Louisiana and I can’t be more proud of my kids,” DeRidder head coach Brad Parmley said.
On DeRidder’s first drive of the game, Williams beat a Lakeshore defender to the pylon for a three-yard touchdown to put the Dragons ahead 7-0 with 5:57 left in the first quarter.
However, Lakeshore (5-5) would respond with a long drive and would finish it off when wide receiver Jaden Wells got the ball as a wing back and scored from five yards out to tie the game up at seven with 2:19 left to go in the first quarter.
However, DeRidder would explode in the second quarter with two big touchdown plays to take a 21-7 lead at the half.
The first touchdown happened when Williams got the handoff, exploded through the line of scrimmage and ran past a Lakeshore linebacker for a 55-yard touchdown on DeRidder’s first drive of the second quarter.
On the second touchdown play, DeRidder quarterback Tanner Davis would find Uriah Wade for a 49-yard touchdown pass on a perfectly executed play-action pass.
However, Lakeshore would close the gap when quarterback Beau Bernard found the endzone on a one-yard quarterback sneak to decrease DeRidder’s lead to 21-14 with 3:31 left to go in the third quarter.
After the Lakeshore forced DeRIdder to punt, the Titans would tie the game when running back Dylan Cusachs would outrun DeRidder’s defense and would leave the last Dragon defender in the dust for an 82-yard touchdown to tie the game at 21 with 8:02 left to go in the game.
With the game tied at 21, Lakeshore’s Cade Stevens intercepted Davis’ pass at DeRidder’s 31-yard line and with a shot to pull off the comeback. Cusachs picked up 24 yards and DeRidder’s Boogie Woods made a great touchdown-saving tackle to prevent Lakeshore taking the lead with the time ticking down. Moreover, Woods’ touchdown-saving tackle may have been the game-saving tackle.
With the score all tied up at 21 with just under five minutes left to go in the game and with all the momentum swinging in their favor, the Titans had a chance to take its first lead of the game. However, a mishandled handoff led to a turnover and the Dragons took over at their three-yard line.
On the next play, Williams took the handoff, bounced to the outside and dashed 97 yards to the endzone before gasping for air while celebrating with his teammates to give the Dragons a 28-21 lead with under four minutes left in the game.
“Reid (Williams) wasn’t even a starter in week one and he has progressed and developed,” Parmley said. “He’s a super, awesome kid. I’m so happy for him and all the success he has had.”
However, DeRidder still had to stop Lakeshore’s red-hot offense. After a huge pass from Bernard to Wells, the Titans were in another prime position to score a touchdown late in the game and tie the game. However, Lakeshore had another fumble and DeRidder recovered it.
Cusachs finished with 132 yard. Wells finished with 70 yards in both rushing and receiving and recorded a rushing touchdown as well.
The Dragons will travel to the Shreveport area to take on the number-one seed in the Division II Non-Select playoffs, North DeSoto, who was the 2022 Division II Non-Select state championship runner-up.