NEW ORLEANS - If you were paying attention, you could see it coming for weeks.
The energy, the emotion and the killer instinct - it was all there.
For the Lafayette (La.) Acadiana Wreckin' Rams, No. 27 in the RivalsHigh Top 100 rankings, it was only a matter of time.
"Expectations raise when you attain certain levels of success," Acadiana coach Ted Davidson said after his team's 21-14 win over No. 9 West Monroe (La.) High in the state's 5A final.
"We knew we had what it takes to win it all, and these five weeks proved it."
It was five weeks that almost never materialized.
At the midway point of the season Acadiana was penalized by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association for playing games with an ineligible player. It cost the team four wins, dropping it to 4-4 on the season.
It nearly cost it a chance at the playoffs.
"What that did," Davidson said, "was scared the heck out of us. Those kids saw what could be taken away from them. They saw what they could lose out on."
The team rebounded and won its remaining games.
It entered the playoffs as the fifth-to-last team to qualify at 6-4. It was seeded No. 27.
"That was not the 27th seed that just beat us out there," West Monroe coach Don Shows said. "Had they not had to forfeit those wins they likely would have been seeded above us.
"That was a really good team. A great team."
Acadiana is now 11-4. Its No. 27 ranking is certain to improve as it has been steadily on the rise since it was assured a spot in the playoffs.
The win did not come without a fight as the Rams, which dominated the entire first half, found themselves trailing 14-13 just seconds into the second half after West Monroe returned the kickoff for a score.
The momentum began to shift, but the Rams were able to stem the tide.
"I was hoping it wasn't going to be an avalanche," Davidson said. "They popped a big one right before halftime and then that. Our defense really bailed us out."
The defense has been the calling card of the Rams the entire postseason. It had only given up 33 points in the first four rounds before surrendering seven more in the title game.
"I gotta get on them," Wilkinson said. "They gave up a score tonight."
The unit also kept the team in the game.
With West Monroe starting with the ball on its own 2-yard line nearing the end of the third quarter, it was a make-or-break situation.
After eight plays and 71 yards, it looked as if the Rebels were going to take a commanding lead.
Then Izaih Abraham forced a fumble and turned the game around.
"You can't turn the football over when you have momentum," Shows said. "I think they were getting down and it lifted them right back up."
Davidson saw it the same way.
"They had the ball and they were moving the football on us," Davidson said. "We had been out there a long time on defense and we were getting tired. That play changed the whole scope of the game."
So did the play that followed.
Acadiana quarterback, Ryan Bergeron, flipped a pass to the flat to the game's MVP Micah Eugene, who scampered 63 yards to the West Monroe 10.
Eugene, who would end the game with 121 rushing yards to go with his 63-yard reception, scored three plays later, putting the Rams up for good.
"Man, they tried to kill me out there," Eugene said. "That was a big defensive line and we needed every bit of our strength to beat them."
The team also needed a surprise play or two.
Acadiana, a split back veer team, went to the air early and often.
Bergeron completed 6-of-9 pass attempts for a remarkably high 176 yards.
"If you saw us trying to run on them you would know why we had to pass," Davidson said. "They are as good up front as you are going to see."
Bergeron said he knew the pass game would work.
"We had been preparing to pass," he said. "We knew they would be overloading to stop the run and we hit a big pass play or two to loosen them up."
It may have loosened them up, but both teams left knowing it had played the other.
"That was a great game," Shows said. "It was hard-fought and a battle."
"I felt like I was just in a fight," Davidson said. "We were in a battle from the word go."
For West Monroe (14-1), the loss sends off a senior class that went 45-4 with a state title and two runners-up. It will also say goodbye to its Top 10 ranking.
Acadiana, on the other hand, now has its second state title in five years and with that will come more national recognition and expectations.
And Davidson is well aware of that.
"We are at a point that the state quarterfinals can not be our goal," he said.