Trailing by 3 to start the fourth quarter, the DeRidder defense stepped up as the offense put up points to head into the postseason with a win.
The Dragons scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to defeat Cecilia 31-23 Friday night on the road.
"They came out early in a few things we hadn't seen or practiced against," DeRidder head coach Brad Parmley said. "They got us a couple of times early on, but our kids did a good job of making adjustments, settling down and playing much better at the end of the ball game."
The win puts DeRidder at 7-3 on the year, making them a dangerous road playoff team.
"It feels great," Parmley said. "I'm proud of the kids for having a great regular season and going into the playoffs with a win. We have a little bit of mojo working our way. It's a good feeling, and I'm excited for the boys."
After going down a touchdown in the first quarter, Dragon quarterback KJ Gooden got his team on the board with a touchdown pass to Kai Lynch to tie it up at 7.
DeRidder took the lead in the second quarter with a 74-yard touchdown run by Jalyn Thurman. The senior had another big game for the Dragons, racking up 268 yards on 32 carries.
"He's a good athlete and can do some things with the ball that you can't coach," Parmley said. "The whole offense has bought into what we are doing, and everyone is on the same page. When everyone is on the same page, consistently, good things happen for us."
The Bulldogs ended the half on a 10-0 run to take a 17-14 lead into the break.
Thurman added another touchdown midway through the third quarter to make it 21-17, but Cecilia retook the lead with a passing score with 4:43 remaining in the quarter.
In the fourth, DeRidder (7-3, 3-1) kicker Jose Mijares drilled a 34-yard field goal pull ahead 24-23, and Gooden added a 17-yard touchdown run with 4:40 left on the clock to seal the win.
"We wore them down, and when you keep running the football early on, you wear down the defense, mentally and physically," Parmley said. "We put in some misdirection with KJ and got free on them a couple of times."
Gooden finished with 51 rushing yards and 64 passing yards in the win. Lynch caught three passes for 64 yards for the Dragons.
"Last night, the weather wasn't great, and that messed with the passing game a little bit," Parmley said. "Overall, KJ made some good throws to Kai, and Kai made some great catches. The protection was good. We just have to clean up some things in the passing game."
The Dragons fell eight spots last week to No. 20 in the Power Rankings, but the win over Cecilia should boost them up a spot or two.
"I don't' know where we'll end up," Parmley said. "I could spend four hours today doing the math, and it could be wrong tomorrow. So, I'm going to wait, see how the brackets fall and go to work."