Ponchatoula, Tierney seek glory against dominant Zachary

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If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.

Ponchatoula coach Hank Tierney is one of the very best to ever coach high school football in Louisiana.

Tierney reached the magical 300 win mark for his illustrious career with a 43-36 Class 5A semifinal win over Acadiana, the two-time defending state champion.

The Wreckin’ Rams have won six 5A state championships since 2006. Zachary has won three 5A state championships since 2015.

The Green Wave got through the first huge obstacle in Acadiana.

Now, the Green Wave must get through the other dominant team in the class to win a state title when they take on unbeaten top seed Zachary Saturday at 7 p.m. in Caesars Superdome in a game that you can listen to on NASH ICON, 106.1 FM and at www.nashfm1061.com.

Ponchatoula (12-0) has not been to a state championship game since 1951, when the Green Wave lost 21-6 to Ruston for the Class 1A state title.

The Green Wave won their only state championship in 1940, defeating Bastrop 20-0 for the 1A title.

Both the Green Wave and Broncos are potent and balanced on offense.

Zachary (14-0) is the top seed.

The Broncos handled Destrehan 34-13 in the semifinals.

Zachary is led by Texas A&M commit Eli Holstein, who has completed 67 percent of his passes for 3,004 yards and 27 touchdowns with just four interceptions and he has rushed for 496 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Senior Charles Robertson has 61 receptions for 1,149 yards and 13 touchdowns. Senior running back Connor Wisham has rushed for 1,178 yards and 18 touchdowns and has 16 catches for 237 yards and two scores.

Ponchatoula features senior running back Braydon Johnson, who has 207 carries for 1,806 yards and 24 touchdowns, along with seven catches for 75 yards. Johnson has even thrown a touchdown pass and he has eight sacks and an interception on defense. Senior wide receiver Damontrell Osby has 49 receptions for 916 yards and 11 touchdowns while Notre Dame commit Amorion Walker has seven touchdown catches.

Quarterback Nolan Tribble has thrown for 1,981 yards and 25 touchdowns with just five interceptions.

For Tierney, it is the fifth team he has taken to a state championship game in the Superdome, having won the 4A title with Archbishop Shaw in 1987 and having taken the Eagles to three other championship games.

Tierney has made no secret that this his likely has final year as a head coach, in what will be his final game with a team featuring 30 seniors that overcame the monstrous effects of Hurricane Ida.

“It is a senior bunch that all played as sophomores,” Tierney said. “We kept them all together and here we are. The hurricane passed right over Ponchatoula. Thank goodness it downsized. It did a tremendous amount of damage to the school. We had to get a new roof. We had damage to the practice field and stadium. We didn’t practice for three weeks. I thought for a moment that we wouldn’t play but it all worked out.”

While Ponchatoula is dramatically improved over recent years on defense, allowing just 10 points per game while its outstanding offense averages 43.5 points per contest, it is the third phase that has its coach excited.

“It’s probably the best special teams group we’ve ever had,” Tierney said. “We run punts back in great fashion. We cover really well and we have two outstanding kickers. J.D. Hailey has done a great job punting and Jake Labourdette replaced an all-district kicker and he’s done a great job for us.”

The wide receiving corps for the Green Wave may be the best in the state. All four primary receivers will play college football.

“Kody Finley, Amorion Walker and Damontrell Osby have started every game since their sophomore year,” Tierney said. “Jacoby Mathews played his entire sophomore year both ways. When you add him to the mix, it’s really a talented bunch. It was a tough decision moving Nolan Tribble to quarterback but he’s poised and makes great decisions. He’s son of a coach and an outstanding shortstop in baseball. He’s exceeded our expectations.”

While Tierney has all those stars, the brightest of stars has been Johnson.

“I’m kind of amazed,” Tierney said. “He’s probably the most under-recruited player ever that I’ve had. When I say ever, I mean that I’ve ever coached. He’s a 4.5 guy at 215 pounds averaging eight yards a carry. I just don’t know what the college coaches are not seeing.”

Tierney knows the task is tall against Zachary.

“The best program is standing right there in our way in Zachary,” Tierney said. “It’s a great program. Holstein is tremendous. I watched him on film all week. There’s no doubt why he’s such a big recruit. He can do a lot of things very, very well. He’s probably a better runner than he’s given credit to. He’s throwing to quality receivers and they have a great scheme.”

As Tierney is ready to exit the head coaching scene, he knows what it would mean to win a second state title on a personal level and to win for the Ponchatoula community.

“It would be a great way to go out, for sure,” Tierney said. “I’m just mesmerized about how the town has embraced the team. The crowd last week was good as any Shaw crowd we had. The town has embraced the team. It would good for Hank Tierney but it would be much, much better for the city of Ponchatoula. I expect many of my former Shaw players to be in attendance.”

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Ken Trahan


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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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