It was a rivalry game that lived up to the hype, especially in the second half. Minden roared back from an 18-0 deficit with only 15 minutes left in the game, but ultimately failed in the comeback effort. The Knights held on for victory in an 18-13 win on Saturday night in Minden.
“It’s the first time these kids on our team have done this,” North Webster head coach John Ware said. “It’s a big rivalry. The last few times the games have been like this and we have been on the losing end. I’m very pleased with our team. We came out to fight.”
The first half was sloppy with turnovers and stalled offenses, but most of that came from playing on Saturday and wet conditions.
“The first half we hurt ourselves with fumbles and turnovers,” Minden coach Spencer Heard said. “We were moving the ball. That wasn’t really the problem. It’s just a lack of consistency”
North Webster capitalized on turnovers to take a 12-0 lead into halftime.
“I thought we played well to begin with,” Ware said. “It really came down to our special teams in the first half. The whole game was about field positioning and momentum.”
Both teams were even in total offense at that point, but North Webster took advantage of Minden’s mistakes to take a big lead on the road.
“In the first half we elected to punt a few times instead of going for it on fourth down in marginal situations,” Ware said. “That paid off for us. We pinned them back into their own ten-yard line a few times. We recovered a fumble for a touchdown the second time.”
With 3:49 left in the third quarter, Knights’ receiver Scottie Johnson caught a 39-yard touchdown pass to put North Webster up 18-0. It was as though the air had been sucked out of The Pit at that point.
Minden quarterback Trent McLaughlin made his mark on the next possession, stringing together five straight passes, three of which found Seth Johnson, to move the ball down the field.
“Before that possession we had been successful running the ball and hadn’t really thrown too much,” Heard said. “Trent has the ability to do that.”
Lieric Robinson caught a screen for 15 yards on a perfectly poised pass from McLaughlin that brought the Tide into the Knights’ red zone. Robinson scored on the next play with a 14-yard run.
“Lieric played well, we need more of that,” Heard said. “We need explosive plays, it’s something we’re lacking. Without them, we have to put together 10-12 play drives. We’re not quite consistent enough to keep doing that.”
After Robinson’s touchdown, The Pit was waking up, and Minden was back in the game entering the fourth quarter.
North Webster followed with a short possession as Minden’s defense had woken up. AJ Lister opened Minden’s next possession with a 50-yard run. Robinson caught another screen pass on third-and-one for a 20-yard catch that brought the ball to the North Webster one-yard line. Robinson scored on the next play to bring the score to 18-13 with 8:09 left in the game.
Late in the fourth, the Minden band was in competition with the North Webster band. Both crowds were dancing. The game was finally beginning, and there were only a few minutes left to determine the outcome.
North Webster stalled again on offense and elected to punt to Jacareon Lathan. Lathan ran for a twisting, turning, explosive 40-yard punt return, only to have it called back with a questionable block-in-the-back penalty. The momentum had shifted. Instead of being on the good side of midfield, Minden had to start the possession from their own 20-yard line.
After punting the ball, North Webster marched down the field with a 30-yard run from Eddie Rollen.
“Rollen is one of our explosive players,” Ware said. “We had an injury to James Henderson that forced Eddie to have to play both ways.”
Lorenzo Johnson went for a 20-yard run shortly after that put North Webster on the Minden one-yard line. Penalties pushed the Knights back to the 11-yard line before Minden’s Alonzo Combs intercepted Tyrell Markray on third-and-goal with 1:48 left in the game.
Minden had the ball at their own 30-yard line, but had used all of their timeouts on the previous possession to keep North Webster from running out the clock.
Robinson ran for no gain on the first play. McLaughlin couldn’t find a receiver on the second. On third down, McLaughlin found his receiver but the ball was dropped and ultimately fell incomplete.
On fourth down, McLaughlin looked deep for Jacobe Greenard, but the ball fell to the grass for an incomplete pass. Questions surrounded whether a flag should have been thrown for pass interference, but some of that was surely due to emotions instead of accuracy.
North Webster (1-2) plays West Ouachita on Friday, September 21.
Minden (0-3) will also be on the road this week as they open district play at Huntington (0-3).