The scoreboard read Iota-21, North Webster-14 when it was all said and done on Friday night in Iota, but most observers would tell you that the Knights were the better team.
“We didn’t take advantage of our opportunities,” North Webster head coach John Ware said. “In our recent five-game win streak, we took advantage. We didn’t on Friday, it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Eddie Rollen opened the game for North Webster with a five-yard rushing touchdown. Iota scored 14 unanswered points to give them a lead heading into halftime.
“With twenty seconds or so to go in the half, we got the ball to their one-yard line and failed to score,” Ware said.
The second half went back and forth with both defenses trading stops.
Lorenzo Johnson scored a three-yard rushing touchdown late in the third quarter. Rollen punched in the two-point conversion and the game was tied heading into the fourth.
The Knights took it to the number-one seeded Bulldogs in the fourth quarter, getting down inside their five yard line with eight minutes left in the game. North Webster was called for a holding penalty as they were knocking on the door, and ultimately turned the ball over on an interception.
The Bulldogs couldn’t capitalize and were forced to punt.
“There was a phantom muffed punt called against us,” Ware said. “First of all, it was a clear kick returner’s interference, they were all over Scottie Johnson. Second, he never touched the ball. I’ve seen it on film and it was the wrong call.”
The Bulldogs scored on a three-yard touchdown run to take a 21-14 lead with three minutes to play in the game.
The Knights got a big return on the ensuing kickoff. After a long pass to Johnson, North Webster was again knocking on the door to tie the game in the waning seconds of the game.
“We got down to their 12-yard line with about a minute to go,” Ware said. “We went four downs and couldn’t get it in.”
The Knights turned the ball over on downs, and the Bulldogs ran out the clock to advance to the 3A state semifinals.
“I don’t want to come away looking like I’m blaming it all on that one phantom muffed punt call,” Ware said. “We got the ball inside their 25-yard line four times and didn’t score. It’s hard to blame anyone else but ourselves.”
North Webster out-gained Iota in total yards, but failed to convert long drives into points on multiple occasions.
“It felt like we won the game all over the field,” Ware said. “Everywhere except the scoreboard.”
The Knights’ season won’t be defined by a heartbreaking loss to the #1 team in the state. It has been a magical run for a team who have endured a number of injuries and difficult circumstances all year.
“We had seven guys who were supposed to be starters this season who weren’t out there,” Ware said. “The next man always stepped up. Looking back on it, it’s been just a bunch of gutsy kids. Good kids. First-class kids. That’s really why I felt so terrible for them after the game.”
It was a bit of an up and down season for North Webster. But it’s one that will go down in Webster Parish history as one of the best. The Knights’ players earned their moment to go in the Springhill Pantheon.
“The resiliency of these guys has just been incredible,” Ware said. “It just didn’t bounce our way this time.”