The Minden Crimson Tide are back where they belong, competing in the second round of the LHSAA Class 4A playoffs.
The Tide (9-2, 6-1) are on a roll, having won five straight since falling on the road to Benton in week six. During the current five game streak, Minden is averaging 36.2 points per game and the Crimson Swarm defense is dealing out punishment and forcing turnovers like it’s going out of style.
In last week’s round-one win over the Tioga Indians, the Tide totaled 562 yards of offense on their way to 49 points. The Minden defense picked off Tioga three times and added one fumble recovery.
While fans continue to gush over that performance and talk about the Tide’s title hopes, Minden players and coaches are busy preparing for what will be the best visiting team The Pit has hosted all season.
The Franklinton Demons (8-3, 4-0) earned the No. 10 seed in Class 4A for running through their district schedule unbeaten and playing a brutal non-district schedule against the likes of Covington, West Monroe and Jesuit.
In round one, Franklinton handed a talented Breaux Bridge a 39-17 loss. Head coach Spencer Heard knows the Tide can’t afford to be sloppy, or they will suffer a similar fate.
“I was pretty disappointed with the way we played in the first half last week,” Heard said. “The offensive line wasn’t playing very well and we had some uncharacteristic drops; just things we hadn’t been doing. If we have a half like that against these guys, we’ll be hanging up our stuff.”
The Demons offense operates out of the spread, utilizing the abundance of athletes they have at the receiver position. Franklinton’s quarterback, Tahj McGee has outstanding speed also, and the arm to beat defenses deep when they cheat up to stop the run. Slot receiver/running back Azende McGee has track speed and the Demons will try to get him in space on the edge for explosive plays.
“They’re a very good team,” Heard said. “They have a talented left-handed quarterback and slot receiver, who are both related to former LSU running back Terrence McGee. They run the ball about 65 percent of the time and have a pretty good-sized O-line. They aren’t as big as they have been in years past, but they’re not small.”
Defensively, Franklinton has talent off the edge at defensive end and up the middle at linebacker.
“In the secondary they’re about like us,” Heard said. “They play an aggressive style of defense. One defensive end is like Zi’ (Baker) and they have two, good inside linebackers. They are sound in everything they do and we’ll have to play very well to beat them.”
Heard said the attitude at practice this week was business as usual, with a focus on staying sharp and not getting fancy.
“We’re not re-inventing the wheel,” Heard said. “We’re just trying to get better at what we do.”
In the second half of last week’s game, the Tide offense did everything well.
Antonio Rivette accounted for 500 yards of offense, L’Jarius Sneed and Tavarius Edwards both had a pair of touchdowns, Rodtravion Rogers and Kolby Jackson combined for 109 yards and a score and the offensive line kept Rivette’s jersey clean.
Heard said in order to move the ball on a rugged Franklinton defense, they will need four quarters of that effort.
“We can’t afford to have a half like we did in the first half,” Heard said. “We talked to the guys this week and explained that if we desire to move on, we have to play the way we did in that second half. They see how good Franklinton is and know we need a four quarter effort.”
Both teams may find the footing problematic with heavy rains over the past two weeks soaking the playing surface in The Pit. Much of the field is covered in soggy sand and the make-up of the field is not ideal for drainage. On the bright side, the Tide won’t play on a surface as bad as the quagmire they muddled through in their 20-14 win against Woodlawn, and conditions should be similar to last week’s when Minden tallied 49 points.
Heard said anything close to last week’s conditions would be welcomed.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to recover from this much rain,” Heard said. “We have an extra day to dry the field since it rained on Tuesday, compared to last week when it rained on Wednesday. We’ll get it as good as we can. If it’s like last week, that’s wonderful.”
A win would in any circumstances would be wonderful, and would give the Tide their first 10-win season since 2006 and just the second 10-win campaign of the last 30 years.
Friday night The Pit will be rocking. Hopefully, the Tide will be rolling.