COVINGTON — With the celebration already in full force, a Parkway assistant coach grabbed head coach David Feaster and said that 11 years ago, he didn’t think it was possible.
Believe it. Parkway is going to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to compete for the Class 5A championship after the No. 1 Panthers erased a fourth-quarter deficit in a 28-27 win at No. 14 Covington.
The Panthers (13-0), who had never been to the semifinals before this season, won their fourth consecutive road playoff game and will play for their first-ever football championship against No. 1 Acadiana.
“It’s a great feeling,” said Parkway coach David Feaster, who hugged and greeted a large Parkway fan base that made a third straight South Louisiana trip. “I can’t think of any fans who deserve it more.
“It’s the first time in the semifinals. We never came close to this in Class 4A, and now we’re in 5A and going to the Dome? It’s off the charts. And we had to travel every week, and these fans came out of pocket every week — off the charts.”
The Panthers forced four of Covington’s six turnovers in the second half, and linebacker Austin Averitt sealed the win when he hit Covington running back C.J. Sims behind the line on fourth-and-two from the Lions’ 40-yard line.
Averitt intercepted quarterback Dylan Savarese twice in the second half, leading a defensive charge that held the Lions to zero points and three first downs after Covington led 27-21 at the half.
“It was incredible. Everything we had problems with at some point in the season we did well in the second half,” Feaster said. “To pitch a shutout against this team in the second half — it was amazing.”
Sims, who was a gametime decision with an injury, gained 75 of his 107 rushing yards in the first half.
The Panthers recovered their second onside kick to start the second half, and the defense also stopped Covington twice on fourth down in the second half to limit the Lions’ chances.
Parkway took the lead for good early in the fourth quarter when William McKnight scampered for a 36-yard touchdown and the 28-27 lead. McKnight finished with 60 rushing yards while Stacy McCray pitched in 60.
Quarterback Brandon Harris led all rushers with 128 yards to go with his 110 passing yards. Parkway rushed for 280 yards.
The Panthers overcame four turnovers (Harris had two lost fumbles and an interception) and a blocked field goal to get the win.
Covington took an early 14-0 lead after Parkway turned it over on the first two possessions. Savarese threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Haar and Broderick Bankston ran in from 1-yard.
Harris answered with a 33-yard touchdown scramble, but the Lions went up 20-7 on a 64-yard Savarese pass to Cordara Laurant to end a wild first quarter. Parkway blocked the extra point, weighing heavily in the 1-point win.
After Covington lost a bad snap at the Parkway 38, Harris marched the Panthers down for another score. He found Demetrius McAtee for a 13-yard screen on fourth down to cut Covington’s lead to 20-14.
Parkway recovered an Avery Shoebridge sky kick, which led to a Harris 4-yard pass to Brodrick Jefferson and a 21-20 lead late in the second quarter.
But Covington’s Colt Clemons intercepted a Harris screen pass to set up a 1-yard Garrald McDowell plunge for the 27-21 halftime lead.