Four trips to the Caesars Superdome for the 5A Finals, four 5A State Championships for the ZHS Broncos. After a late-night celebration of December 11 that continued into the morning of December 12, the term “dynasty” becomes applicable for the ZHS football program.
The 2021 Broncos did what these three previous teams failed to do by finishing the regular season and playoffs unbeaten. The Broncos’ 28-20 victory over previously undefeated Ponchatoula was another classic with several twists and turns that kept fans going until the end.
Ponchatoula took an early lead and led the Broncos 20-14 before halftime. The first half would see Ponchatoula struggle to lead the game but gain ground through a short and intermediate passing play that scored 172 yards in the first half. The Broncos have struggled with the game of football and early turnovers put the defense in difficult positions. With Ponchatoula set to receive the ball first in the second half, there was certainly concern from ZHS fans who wrapped up the lower-tier Superdome seats.
Kylin Jackson’s extra point block in the first half would change the game in some ways as the Green Wave kicker was injured, limiting his ability to hit field goals in the second half. The game turned completely on Ponchatoula’s first practice in the second half when Carlton Johnson intercepted a pass and sent it back 46 yards into Green Wave territory. Eli Holstein scored a meter to give the Broncos a 21-20 lead with just 3 minutes into the second half.
From there, the defense was exceptional, repeatedly stifling Ponchatoula’s offense. Coach David Brewerton often uses the phrase “take a team into the deep water to see how they react”. A Ponchatoula team that used to score 50 points per game found they couldn’t paddle through the multiple, high waves of a Bronco defense that didn’t want to give up and ruled them out in the second half.
Johnson would get another interception but was not alone in his efforts. Defensive linemen Ashton Freeman, Cameron Hamilton, Ta’shon Nelson, Ashley Williams and Xavier Robinson and linebackers Riley Howard and Emauri Sibley interrupted the run and increased the pressure on Ponchatoula’s passing game. At the back it was Jackson with crushing shots all over the court with Ethan Veal and Dave Peterson tightening things up on Green Wave receivers. There were others.
The offense would rack up another score on a 41-yard touchdown pass from Holstein to Tylon Williams with 6:22 remaining. The defense will come down once again. After being unable to land a first down to close the game, the Broncos were forced to kick with less than 20 seconds to go.
In one of those typical ‘where did that come from’ moments we’ve grown used to seeing with this team, Brewerton sent Cameron Walker in for a punt.
A little flashback on this one: The starting bettor was injured during the first playoffs, and after working with another bettor or so, Kylin Jackson did the clearance duties earlier in the game. Jackson was struggling with the cramps and was unable to kick. Holstein, who earlier in the game delivered an excellent, quick kick that was knocked down at Ponchatoula’s 2-yard line, didn’t stay on the field to kick. No, the Broncos sent out senior winger Cameron Walker who, by then, had never kicked in a game.
“He gave a few kicks in one of our workouts and looked pretty good,” said Brewerton.
Walker uncorked a beautiful punt which was quickly covered and sealed the fate of the Green Wave.
Championship on the line, time is running out, ZHS coaches are putting their trust in the players, and the players are responding. If there’s one thing this team and all of Brewerton’s previous championship teams have in common, it’s the ability to respond to challenges and be ready, at all times, to be called upon to play.
The 2021 ZHS Broncos football team ends up undefeated, left their legacy and made them a dynasty.