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Farewell, football season

It seems like yesterday, I was walking through the gates of Red Franklin Memorial Stadium to watch North Webster and Haynesville kick off the 2015 season.

Boy, how time flies.

Friday night, the Minden Crimson Tide and North Webster Knights fell in heartbreaking fashion, ending hopes of a Webster Parish takeover of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Tide and Knights each finished with nine wins, while Glenbrook and Lakeside endured tough times, with the Apaches winning just one game and the Warriors finishing winless.
This was my second season as Sports Editor at the Minden Press-Herald and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to cover the teams I did, meet the faces behind the helmets of our favorite schools and be able to bring their stories to you, our readers.

With that said, in no particular order, here are some of the more memorable moments of a season that was anything but ordinary.

1. Glenbrook gets a W

In the last week of the season, 22-year-old head coach of the Apaches, Caleb Carmikle, gets his first win and sends his seniors out on top. The Apaches have better days ahead.

2. Devin White defeats Haynesville

I’m well aware Devin White didn’t do it on his own, but you can certainly argue North Webster couldn’t have done it without him. The senior put on a clinic, rushing for 147 yards and three TD’s while icing the game with an 86-yard kick-return touchdown.

3. L’Jarius Sneed’s magical night

I have never seen a player in the zone like Sneed was against Benton. Although the Tide lost, Sneed was the best player on the field and showed he was one of the best north Louisiana has to offer. His final stat-line showed eight catches for 278 yards and four TD’s. Sneed added 29 rushing yards and a 71-yard kick return, bringing his total to 378 total yards and four TD’s.

4. Rivette runs past North DeSoto

North DeSoto came into the game with a stout defense known for punishing opponents into submission.

No one told Antonio Rivette.

The junior ran for 166 yards and three touchdowns and threw for 148 yards and two more scores as Minden prevailed, 43-40 on the road.

5. Webster Parish Superbowl

The game I was looking forward to most when schedules were announced lived up to the hype.

Minden outlasted a determined North Webster bunch, led by White with 225 yard and two TD’s.

North Webster had the ball at the Minden two-yard line with less than three minutes to play and the Tide stuffed Devin White three times and sacked Cameron Huff to hold on for a thrilling win.

Replacing Playmakers

Webster Parish may look back at this season and wonder if a better duo has ever shared the spotlight.

L’Jarius Sneed and Devin White played for different schools, but will be forever linked in my mind and the minds of many others for putting the star-power back in place for the parish.
In an area like Shreveport/Bossier City, it’s not hard to find two elite athletes bound for college ball, but to have two players of that caliber in our backyard was special, and a lot of fun to watch.

White, a four-star prospect according to all major recruiting outlets, has offers from 11 SEC schools and 29 other Division-I schools.

Sneed currently has offers from LA Tech, University of Louisiana-Lafayette, Arkansas State University and Nicholls State. Sneed is on his way to becoming Minden’s first DI football player since Jared Johnson inked with the Ragin’ Cajuns in 2012.

Congratulations to both seniors on outstanding seasons.

Last one out, turn off the lights

What a wonderful season it was.

A giant thank you goes out to everyone who helped me escape it alive.

Mark Chreene, thanks for being the man that makes Minden football go. Your hard work and dedication to the Tide never goes unnoticed.

Lori Hughes of North Webster and Christine Lee of Lakeside, your pictures and constant keeping in contact with me on Friday nights was essential to coverage of the Knights and Warriors. I hope I didn’t ask too much of you, but neither of you ever complained and it is a testament to the love you have for your schools.

To the coaches of our four Webster Parish schools, thank you for your patience in dealing with constant phone calls, text messages and interviews I’m sure you often didn’t want to give.

Your cooperation was imperative to coverage of the high-character student-athletes you coached and it never waivered. I know you all can’t wait to get the call from me, hassling you about your all-district players.

Last, but certainly not least, the fans.

You are what makes all of this worthwhile.

Minden High, Glenbrook, North Webster and Lakeside are home to some special kids, and those kids love nothing more than laying it on the line each Friday night for you.

No matter where I went this season, the support was over the top.

In week one, I swear North Webster fans outnumbered Haynesville in their own house. You can’t tell me that didn’t mean the world to those Knight’s players.

In the Webster Parish game of the year between Minden and North Webster, the support on both sides was evident as an overflow crowd filled not just the stands, but the track as well.

At Glenbrook, in the face of a winless season, attendance only got stronger as the year went on. Once again, it never went unnoticed.

Continue to support your local athletes, they are the heartbeat of this small town.

So with this, we put a nice, pretty bow on a season that gave us record-breaking performances, last-minute wins, a controversial sex scandal and heartbreaking losses.
Here’s hoping for an even longer, heart-felt goodbye in 2016.

Blake Branch is the Sports Editor of the Minden Press-Herald