SPRINGHILL – On an absolutely gorgeous night for football, Minden and North Webster gave football fans all they could ask for and more, with the Crimson Tide escaping Springhill victorious, 27-20.
“I knew it was going to be a game like this,” Minden head coach Spencer Heard said. “Our defense was able to keep us in it and our offense was able to make the plays when we needed to. We’ll enjoy this win and the confidence it gives us moving forward.”
It was the game everyone in Webster Parish circled when the LHSAA released official football schedules back in June. Few, myself included, thought the game could live up to the hype being placed on the “Webster Parish Super Bowl,” but the two programs treated fans to a game that had a little bit of everything.
“It was a good football game,” North Webster head coach John Ware said. “The game took off in the wrong direction for us, but we did what we do and hung in there to make it a heck of a football game. There was some hard hitting and some guts laid out on the field last night.”
The Tide began the game with a successful onside kick off the foot of Justin McCready, setting themselves up with good field position. After a well-executed screen pass to Tavarius Edwards, Antonio Rivette showed off his legs with a pair of first down runs before falling into the end zone for a touchdown on fourth and goal.
The Knights struggled on offense in the early going, and a snap over the head of punter Conroe McMullan sailed out of the end zone for a safety, moving Minden’s early lead to 9-0.
Devin White got the Knights on the board with a punishing 40-yard run that came after a big hit on a punt return jarred the ball lose from Minden’s Patrick Heard. The Tide would add another touchdown when middle linebacker Cameron Morgan dropped into zone coverage and picked off Cameron Huff. Morgan rumbled all the way down the Minden sideline, going 55 yards for the score. The Tide led 16-6 at the half, but North Webster came out of the half guns blazing.
After Pedro Hernandez hit a 37-yard field goal, with ease I might add, the Knights strung together their best drive of the Knight, mixing the run and pass well. North Webster drove down to the Minden eight yard line where Jalen Smith cutback and found paydirt to make it 19-13.
Following a big defensive stop, the Knights had it back to start the fourth and final quarter. On the first play of the quarter, Devin White went right up the gut, made one man miss and turned on the jets, outrunning everyone in the Minden secondary on his way to a 72-yard score.
The Crimson Tide answered with a gutsy, time-consuming drive that ended with a one yard touchdown plunge by Rivette, his second score of the game. McCready picked up a fumble to add a bizarre two-point conversion and make the score 27-20.
North Webster seized momentum immediately on a do-or-die drive late in the fourth quarter. Devin White ate up chunks of yardage, moving the Knights down the field and eventually setting up a first and goal from the two yard line.
On first and goal, the Tide stuffed White for a two yard loss. Second and goal, another huge stop, followed by another on third and goal. A penalty cost North Webster five huge yards, moving them back to the eight yard line. The Knights opted for a play action pass on fourth and goal, but Zi’Kerrion Baker diagnosed it quickly and came up with a game-saving sack of Huff.
“Coach told us we would have to play through adversity,” Baker said. “This gives us some momentum going into our district season. It was a tough fight out there tonight.”
The Tide needed a first down to end the game, and on fourth and one from their own 25 yard line, Heard opted to go for it rather than punt it back to the Knights with 1:35 on the clock.
Rivette got the nod on the fourth down play, running into the teeth of the defense and gaining what looked like three quarters of a yard. The referees brought out the sticks for a measurement that revealed a Minden first down.
“I didn’t even think it was close to be honest,” Ware said. “They didn’t even get back to the line of scrimmage and as I’m getting the offense ready they bring the chains out and call it a first down.”
Heard saw it differently.
“I didn’t think the spot was the best of spots for us,” Heard said. “To me it looked like we got a bad spot, but these are high school refs doing the best they can.”
As time expired, the Tide took a knee and the players and fans began to celebrate a hard-fought victory.
On the other side, an exhausted Knights team was consoled by their adoring fans who came out to watch the game, and although the scoreboard claimed North Webster had lost, the Knights had nothing to be ashamed of.
Two great teams from the same great parish came together and played one of the best games I have ever witnessed. Months of anticipation and excitement were justified through the passionate play of the best athletes Webster Parish has to offer, one of whom will surely suit up on Saturdays next fall. North Webster entered the game ranked No. 1 in Class 3A and likely won’t fall far given the nature of the loss. For Minden, the win could vault them into the top 10 in Class 4A, a place the program couldn’t dream of being just two seasons ago.
Whether you were rolling with the Tide or living the Knight life, Friday night was special.
Our area has its premier matchup back after a seven year hiatus. Let’s hope it doesn’t disappear on us anytime soon.
For the Minden Crimson Tide, Rivette threw for 68 yards and ran for 53 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead the offense. Rodtravion Rogers led the team rushing with 65 tough yards and Kolby Jackson muscled his way to 23 yards. Kelcey Miller and Tavarius Edwards each caught two passes for 28 receiving yards, while Rogers had one catch for 12 yards.
Defensively, Morgan’s 55-yard interception return was the play of the night, Kenneth Francis forced a timely fumble and Zi’Kerrion Baker led the team in tackles.
McCready punted four times on the night, with a long of 52 and an average of 45.5 yards per punt including one punt downed at the one yard line. Pedro Hernandez topped off the special teams effort with a clutch 37-yard field goal in the third quarter.
North Webster was led by none other than White who rushed for 225 yards and a pair of touchdowns against a very good Crimson Tide defense. Jalen Smith carried nine times for 42 yards and a touchdown in a solid effort and Blake Atchley had four carries for 27 yards.
Huff didn’t have many opportunities to pass against the Minden secondary, finishing 2-7 for eight yards with completions to Wesley Franklin and Jalen Smith.
Minden will begin their district schedule on Friday at The Pit as they welcome the Fair Park Indians to Minden. Fair Park is 2-1 this season.
The North Webster Knights have another tough matchup next week, as they will host Class 5A Ouachita High School. The Lions are 1-1 fresh off a 43-35 loss to Class 4A powerhouse Neville.