The No. 7 seeded Minden Crimson Tide (8-2, 6-1) enter this week’s first round playoff game against the No. 26 seeded Tioga Indians (4-6, 3-2) as Class 4A’s highest seeded non-district champion.
They got there by playing a daunting non-district schedule (Southwood, Haughton and North Webster) and running through district 1-4A with just one loss, a 41-34 shootout with Benton.
The Tide offense has been racking up yardage and points on their way to the playoffs and will look to continue their renaissance campaign in the postseason. The Tide took advantage of a much improved Antonio Rivette this season, ditching last season’s run first approach in favor of a wide open aerial assault.
The receiver trio of L’Jarius Sneed, Tavarius Edwards and Kelcey Miller has been reliable, with the lone senior, Sneed, leading the way.
More than just reliable, Sneed has been exceptional.
Sneed has caught 23 passes for 720 yards and 10 touchdowns for an eye-popping average of 31.3 yards per reception and 102.9 yards per game. On the ground, Sneed has added 265 yards and five touchdowns on only 24 carries, good for 11 yards per carry.
Edwards has been dangerous as well, proving his impressive sophomore season was no fluke.
The junior leads the team in receptions (28) and has totaled 409 yards and four touchdowns, including an 80-yard touchdown catch last week that gave Minden the lead in the fourth quarter against Woodlawn.
Miller has 15 catches for 210 yards and one touchdown on the season, with many of those catches coming on third down when opponents are keyed in on Sneed or Edwards.
Rivette tossed for 1,496 yards and 16 touchdowns during the regular season, making himself known as one of the area’s top passers. But what makes Rivette special is his ability to beat teams on the ground. This season, the junior led the team with 609 rushing yards, not counting yards lost via sack. His seven rushing touchdowns also leads the team and if Rivette remains the dual-threat we’ve seen thus far, there’s no telling how far the Tide could roll.
The Tide running backs haven’t been called upon nearly as much as in 2014, but have got the job done. They could be the wild-card to a deep playoff run, with opponents likely to be more worried about Minden’s passing attack. Kolby Jackson was the star of the backfield show last season, but it has been senior Rodtravion Rogers leading the way this season. Rogers has carried for just 370 yards, but averages an impressive 4.3 yards per carry in limited action. Jackson has averaged three yards per carry and found the end zone twice this season, while sophomore D.J. Elkins has been great in a change-of-pace role, averaging 6.4 yards per touch.
The greatest improvement from last season has probably been along the offensive line. Last year’s unit was inconsistent, whereas this year’s group has given Rivette plenty of time to throw and carved out space in the running game whenever they’ve needed to. It’s a group led by seniors Ta’Konza Williams and Josh Wilkins who are both having all-district kind of seasons. Center Keith Smith and guard Brandon Jackson have also played well.
Tioga will have their hands full on defense, with Minden boasting both the statistics and talent to backup talk of a deep playoff run.