HAUGHTON – It was a win seven years in the making, and it was worth the wait.
Minden battled fatigue, adversity and bad lighting Friday night at Harold E. Harlan Stadium to come away with a satisfying 23-20 win.
The Tide (2-0) needed clutch performances across the board, and in all three phases of the game, to pull it off.
“It took every player that we have to win that game,” Crimson Tide head coach Spencer Heard said. “That’s what it takes in ball games like that. All the players, down to the special team guys, it took all of us. The coaching staff did a really good job throughout the course of the game at making adjustments.”
The game was a defensive tug-of-war for most of the first half.
The Tide were able to strike first on their opening possession with a 34-yard field goal by Patrick Heard to make it 3-0 early in first quarter action.
Haughton struggled to move the ball against the Minden defense out of the gate, needing 10 plays to cross midfield before stalling out.
In the second quarter, with the Bucs’ defense beginning to settle in, the Tide defense got a big play from Rodney Johnson when he stepped in front of a Price Curry pass for an interception that set Minden up with a first-and-goal.
One play later, Zi’Kerrion Baker bullied his way into the end zone for a Minden touchdown to bring the score to 10-0 with 3:33 remaining in the first half.
What preceded those events became one of the stories of the night.
With Minden driving near midfield, the lights on the visitor’s side of Harold E. Harlan Stadium went dim, leaving the Minden fans and half of the field in darkness.
“We got together there and discussed what we would do if the lights didn’t come back on,” Heard said. “I definitely didn’t want to come back and play on Saturday.”
Luckily, one of the two sets of lights came back and play was resumed nearly 30 minutes later.
Momentum shifted Haughon’s way for the remainder of the first half, as the Bucs forced a turnover on downs and then drove the field for a Nico Broadway field goal that made the halftime score 10-3 in favor of the Tide.
Haughton came out swinging in the third quarter with Price Curry finding Emile Cola deep downfield for a 51-yard touchdown strike to tie the game at 10-10.
Less than one minute later, following a long return on the ensuing kickoff, Minden answered with a quick strike from Antonio Rivette to Tavarius Edwards. The 25-yard touchdown catch put the Tide back in front 17-10.
Curry went back to work for the Bucs later in the third quarter by finishing a methodical drive with a 4-yard touchdown on a QB power play.
On Minden’s next possession Rivette dropped back to pass, but was hit and fumbled the ball back to Haughton. Broadway would add his second field goal of the night to give Haughton their first lead at 20-17 with 1:06 to play in the third quarter.
Patrick Heard missed on a field goal attempt with 9:54 to play in the fourth quarter, sending the Minden defense back out. Needing a stop to have a chance, the Crimson Tide seized the opportunity and forced a fumble to regain possession.
“I told the defense at halftime,” Heard said. “This game is going to come down to who can give closest to 100 percent in the fourth quarter. I think all of our guys bought into that. Some of those stops their at the end of the game were special.”
Minden found themselves facing fourth down from the Haughton 19-yard line with 8:23 on the clock.
On the snap, holder Leo McCarter sprinted out to his right looking to pass, but Haughton had read the fake and dropped into coverage. That’s when McCarter made the smart play to run for the first down and preserve the drive.
“Patrick’s legs were tired,” Heard said. “We had some penetration on the second field goal, too. All that just kind of played into the decision. We’re down here going in so even if we don’t make it they have to go the length of the field, so let’s take a chance. We had a pass called with it, but he just made a good decision to get around the edge and seal the deal.”
Rivette plunged in from the 1-yard line to give Minden the lead, but the extra point was blocked.
Leading 23-20, Minden turned to their defense one last time. Curry couldn’t complete anything on the final three plays for Haughton and Broadway’s punt traveled just 23 yards.
Minden pounded out the rest of the game on the ground, and Baker put the exclamation point on the win with a 9-yard run on fourth-and-1 from the Haughton 25-yard line. The Bucs, out of timeouts, had to watch as Minden kneeled out the final minute and change.
The Minden offense was much more in sync Friday than they were in week one against Southwood. The Tide got a big boost from one of their smallest athletes, Kolby Jackson.
“I thought it was big game for him,” Heard said. “We needed him. He knew the significance of that game and he ran it hard inside and outside, making some really good cuts on some of those sweeps. It looked like old Kolby to me.”
Jackson finished with 13 carries for 111 yards, including 47 yards in the fourth quarter to help put the game away.
Also noticeably more comfortable was Rivette. The calm, cool and collected senior finished 14 of 29 with most of his completions to Kelcey Miller and Edwards.
“Last week I thought he pressed,” Heard said. “He seemed much more relaxed, and his offensive line did an outstanding job for the most part in giving him protection. Overall, he played well. We didn’t run him a lot, and we really didn’t have to.”
Rivette finished with 211 yards and two total TD’s (1 passing, 1 rushing). Miller finished with 5 catches for 97 yards to lead the pass-catchers, followed by Edwards with 4 catches for 84 yards and a touchdown.
Baker finished with 5 carries for 35 yards and the 9-yard touchdown, while Rykarrian Robinson added 25 yards rushing on 3 carries.
Minden’s next game will be the Webster Parish Super Bowl as the North Webster Knights visit The Pit following a 55-7 thrashing of Homer.