The right team stepped off the bus at Chalmette High School.
No. 9 West Monroe played that brand of Rebel football that head coach Jerry Arledge and company have grown accustomed to over years. And though fans have seen hints of it this season against Alexandria Senior High and Ruston, Rebel fans that made the trip to Chalmette were treated to a West Monroe team that dominates Friday nights. And it didn’t take them long to realize it in a 49-7 thrashing over No. 8 Chalmette in the second round of the playoffs.
“I thought we handled the trip well,” West Monroe offensive coordinator Glenn Hunt said. “There wasn’t a lot of hooting and giggling going on. It was all business.”
The Rebels quickly jumped out to a 28-0 lead in the first half thanks to a phenomenal rushing performance from freshman running back Caden Willis. He rushed for 127 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries Friday night, and his performance was vital to not only keep the Rebels alive in the playoffs but also give star running back Rayshawn Pleasant an extra week to rehabilitate an injury that’s been nagging him all season long.
“Caden played outstanding, and we really needed him to because we needed to sit Rayshawn,” Hunt said. “It’s nice to not be in a situation where we had to put (Pleasant) in there. He was physical, he protected the football and he just did a super job as a freshman.”
Hunt said Pleasant should be close to 100% for the Rebels road trip to No. 1 Zachary Friday night.
Senior defensive back Jack DeBruhl, sophomore defensive lineman Hayden Stewart and freshman defender Zach Simpson each intercepted Chalmette quarterback Darrell Thomas, while the defense limited the Owls to just 11 yards on 17 plays in the first two quarters. The Rebels were so dominant in this playoff encounter that West Monroe out-gained Chalmette, 261-17, in total yards in the first half.
“Defense and special teams were phenomenal all night,” Hunt said. “We had good field position all night because we kept getting short fields.”
Tag Banks led the team with 10 tackles, while Chauncey Lee and Cole-Michael Stephens recorded nine tackles each.
The Rebels held Chalmette to under 100 total yards for the game. Noah Norman rushed for 114 yards and a score on eight carries, while Hayden Federico found the end zone through the air and with his feet. Federico scored on a 15-yard scamper in the second quarter before connecting with Brett Norris on a 35-yard touchdown to put the Rebels up, 35-7, at halftime.
The Rebels freshmen stepped up in a big way Friday night. Along with Willis and Simpson, who also had nine tackles with his interception, Parker Todd recorded a sack while Tyler Roark produced two tackles for loss.
West Monroe is now 24-4 in second round games.
The Owls won their first playoff game since 2004 one-week prior, but this year marked the seventh straight season the Owls made the postseason.
While Chalmette’s journey ends, the Rebels road to the dome only gets more intense after the (12-0) Zachary Broncos defeated East Ascension, 24-21, on the road Friday night.
Zachary and West Monroe have had their share of battles over the years in the playoffs with the most notable being the 2018 Class 5A State Championship Game that saw an 80-yard wide receiver screen by LSU’s Chris Hilton give the Broncos a 27-24 victory in the closing minutes.
This year the Rebels will look to limit another explosive offense that’s led by Eli Holstein. He’s a 6’4”, 225-pound 4-star junior quarterback that is committed to play for Texas A&M. Holstein finished the regular season 15th in the state with 1,954 passing yards and 22 touchdowns with no interceptions.
Rumors swirled all Friday about whether or not Hunt planned on stepping down as offensive coordinator. Hunt addressed the rumor by saying it's a possibility as he's eying a role in administration at some point. Hunt stated he still loves coaching and though stepping into administration remains a possibility down the road, he has yet to make a final decision about his future.