Road leads to Dome for determined Rebels

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 6, 2000

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / December 6, 2000

RESERVE – It took a detour north and getting over a large roadblock but the Riverside Rebels are back on the road to the Superdome for the Nokia Sugar Bowl Prep Classic.

The Rebels will take on Ouachita Christian in the Class 2A state championship game Friday at 5 p.m. Riverside enters the game 14-0 whileOuachita Christian has a 11-3 record.

This is the second time in three years and the third time overall that the Rebels have played in the Class 2A state championship game. OuachitaChristian is making its fourth appearance but its first since 1997.

Riverside is coming off a 33-28 come-from-behind victory at Farmerville Friday night in the semifinals. The Rebels trailed 21-0 after the firstquarter of play but rallied to tie the game early in the third quarter. AfterFarmerville went back ahead, Riverside scored twice in the fourth quarter to pull out the win.

Riverside finished the game with 408 yards in offense, 164 coming on the ground. Britt Waguespack carried 17 times for 60 yards and twotouchdowns. Damian Melancon added 42 yards and two touchdowns on 17carries and Brandon Delaneuville 23 on eight attempts. Jared St. Amanthad eight carries for 39 yards and a touchdown.

Melancon completed 13 of his 23 passes for 244 yards. Gary Entremontcaught nine passes for 171 yards. It was the second straight big game forthe senior who caught eight passes for 122 yards and a touchdown in the win over St. Thomas Aquinas in the quarterfinals.”We knew they were going to come out and focus on our rushing game,” Entremont said of Farmerville. “The line has been protecting well andDamian has been throwing the ball well. We made some big plays on thirddown. We put ourselves in a lot of third-and-fives and it helped thepassing game and the running game.”Waguespack has now rushed for over 1,100 yards on the season while Delaneuville has cracked the 900-yard mark. The two have combined for24 touchdowns. Melancon has thrown for over 1,600 yards while Entremonthas broken the 1,000-yard barrier and scored 11 touchdowns. As a team,the Rebels have run for over 3,500 yards and passed for another 1,800.

But while it was the offense that was giving the Rebels the lead Friday, it was the defense that sparked the comeback. The Farmers gained 330yards, becoming the first team since Newman in the ninth week of the season to gain over 200 yards against the Rebels.

But 213 of those yards came on Farmerville’s first three possessions. Andit was the Rebels’ defense that came up with one of the key plays in the game. With the score 21-6 late in the first half, Farmerville drove to the33. That’s where Ryan Bugay grabbed an interception at the Rebels’ 25,returning it to the 30. Riverside went on to score a touchdown to cut thedeficit to seven and gain momentum going into the second half.

With Riverside leading 33-28 in the final five minutes of the game, the defense again stepped up, coming up with four sacks to end the Farmers’ last two possessions.

“We knew if we shut it down, we were going to the Dome,” Bugay said.

“Everybody gave a 100 percent effort. We stepped it up and got the sacks.”It was not the first time the Rebels have stepped it up in these playoffs.

Before Friday night, the Rebels had allowed just 14 points and 298 total yards in three playoff games. Newman was the last team to score twotouchdowns against the Rebels.

“Our conditioning came in and we came together as a team as the season went on,” Bugay said. “We had a lot of experience and everybody steppedup and was ready to play.”The group that really stepped up was the secondary. In wins over Loyola,North Vermilion and St. Thomas Aquinas in the playoffs, the Rebels havegiven up a combined 54 yards while intercepting three passes. Riversidehad also held Fisher to 13 yards passing in the regular season finale.

“They’ve really come together as a group and really played well,” Bugay said.

Senior offensive lineman Mikey Lozano knows firsthand how tough the Riverside defense has been.

“We always say that going against our defense in practice is the best defense we will go against all year,” Lozano said. “If we can go againstthem, we can go against anyone.”Lozano said that the Rebels’ conditioning helped out Friday along with the fact that many of the Farmerville players had to play on both sides of the ball.

“We put ourselves on the field for a long time,” Lozano said. “We didn’thave to go both ways and they did. “We wanted to wear them in the secondhalf and it paid off.”Bugay said the offense being on the field so long also helped the defense when it was struggling early on.

“The offense executed so we could stay off the field,” Bugay said. “Wecould get off the field and see what we were doing wrong.”The offense and defense will need to execute again this week going against the biggest offensive and defensive lines they have seen all season. But Bugay said the team is more concerned about its executionthan about the Eagles’ size.

“We are more concerned about ourselves and how we will execute,” Bugay said. “If we do our job, we should win. We just have to stick to the gameplan.”Riverside head coach Mickey Roussel said there are two keys for his team against Ouachita Christian – keeping the ball on offense and not giving up the big play on defense. Against Farmerville, despite a muddy field, theRebels did not turn the ball over on 87 snaps.

“We have to move the chains offensively,” Roussel said. “We took 87 snapson offense and didn’t turn the ball over. We kind of wore them down bymoving the chains. We need to do that again.”

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