RAYVILLE — Minutes after Rayville’s gutsy win over Pickering on Friday night, coach Lent Bursey gathered his team and said six straight-to-the-point words.
“They thought Rayville was in trouble,” Bursey said.
Bursey was referring to late in the first half when Rayville star quarterback Kahmod Naylor suffered a leg injury and had to be carried off in an ambulance. Bursey rallied his troops at halftime and watched the Hornets pull off an emotional 32-27 win over No. 5 Pickering in the Class 2A quarterfinals.
After holding off a late fourth-quarter rally, Rayville (9-4) advances to take on No. 8 Mangham next week with a trip to New Orleans on the line.
“When Kahmod went down, he’s our leader. But it’s about 48 other guys on that team. I just told them to step up,” Bursey said. “My offensive line — all five of them — returned from last year, and I told them at halftime we’re going to ride you guys’ back. I’m going to saddle up this wagon and let’s go.”
Naylor injured himself at the end of a 47-yard scamper with 33 seconds left in the first half. The senior tight-roped the Pickering (9-4) sideline before landing awkwardly out of bounds as the ball fell to the turf.
After a 14-minute wait for the ambulance to get on the field, Naylor was wheeled off on a stretcher and taken to the hospital for further testing.
Bursey confirmed after the game it was a leg injury and that Naylor was out for the rest of the playoffs. Naylor was transported to St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe where he was scheduled to see an orthopedic doctor.
“Not really sure. I think it may be something pretty serious,” he said. “He landed very, very awkwardly. It didn’t look good. Didn’t look very promising but the Lord is in control.”
At the time, Rayville trailed 12-8, but ended up taking a 14-12 halftime lead and ran away with the game on the heels of a 116-yard, three-touchdown effort by Sadec Wilson.
Rayville defensive back Jamesterrius Cleveland came down with a leaping interception in Pickering territory with 2 minutes left to clinch the win after Pickering trimmed the lead to 32-27.
Naylor finished with 73 yards on eight carries and completed 1 of 9 passes for 12 yards and an interception.
Immediately after the lengthy stoppage to put Naylor on the stretcher, freshman James Powell, who served as Naylor’s backup, hit Trey Washington on a 27-yard touchdown to put Rayville up 14-12 with four seconds in the half.
“About three weeks ago we started working him into the rotation at practice,” Bursey said of Powell. “It wasn’t like he was just thrown in there. He’s been quality reps with the one’s. We knew something like this could possibly happen.”
It was all Hornets from there despite a brief stretch when the game was tied at 20.
Wilson ripped off a 42-yard touchdown run to put Rayville up 20-12 with 3:14 left in the third quarter. The Hornets capitalized on a Pickering fumble near midfield and scored four plays later to extend their lead to eight. Wilson’s score came after a key 13-yard third-down catch by Rashard Naylor.
Wilson added another score from 5 yards out to put Rayville up 26-20 with 8:29 left. The touchdown came after Rashad Naylor’s 21-yard scamper help propel the seven-play, 65-yard drive.
The game changed late in the fourth quarter when Rayville stuffed Pickering quarterback Patrick Hinson on fourth down at the 43-yard line with 5:17 to play and Rayville padded the score with Wilson’s third score of the day from 5 yards out.
It served as the necessary life to cap an emotional night for the Hornets.
“We have a chain. Each one of my players has a link. What that chain symbolizes is that we’re a team,” Bursey said. “As long as bond together and stick together no matter what happens, we can battle through adversity. It’s just like life. When things happen in life, you lose a loved one or something happens, you mourn for that period of time but life goes on.”
Hinson threw for three touchdowns and Quan Blackwell accounted for two touchdowns to lead Pickering. Blackwell’s 17-yard catch and a two-point conversion tied the score at 20-20 with 11:45 left to play.
Hinson finished 11-of-16 for 236 yards and the three scores. His third touchdown went to Dontay Hargrove, who made a diving catch in the back of the end zone from 15 yards out to cut Rayville’s lead to 32-27 with three minutes left. Hargrove grabbed five passes for 147 yards.
Rayville forced three Pickering turnover on downs, including two at the 11-yard line on back-to-back first-half possession.
Pickering tried a sneak attack onside kick that gave Rayville field position at its own 48 to start the game.
The Hornets marched down 52 yards on nine straight runs to take an 8-0 lead on Rashad Naylor’s 2-yard run.