Defense rules as Rebels shutout Rams, 14-0

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Sports Editor

West St. John and Riverside have a rivalry rich in tradition, and Friday night’s clash between the two teams was the beginning of a brand new chapter – it was the first meeting between first-year head coaches Robert Valdez and Tim Taffi, after years of battles between the Rams’ Laury Dupont and the Rebels’ Mickey Roussel.

Taffi and his Rebels got a leg up on Valdez and his Rams on Friday night. Riverside came away from defensive contest with a 14-0 win over the Rams at Riverside.

Nick Moock’s 73-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the third quarter helped the Rebels (2-1) effectively slam the door on the Rams (0-2).

“That certainly gave us some breathing room,” said Taffi. “As a coach, you’re always worried about momentum changing plays coming from the other side. That gave us a two score lead.”

Riverside outrushed West St. John 161 to 122, and held the Rams to completing only 5-of-25 passes for 91 yards.

“Going in, we felt that if we played like we have been playing, and controlled the line of scrimmage, we’d be in good shape,” said Rebels Coach Tim Taffi. “We knew if we did that and didn’t allow the big play, we had a chance to win this game on defense.”

The Rams saw a similar game play out in their opening game loss to Franklinton – a solid performance on defense negated by an inability to generate points.

“My kids gave me great effort, especially defensively. We’ve only allowed two offensive touchdowns in two weeks,” Valdez said. “We’re weren’t able to execute when we got deep in their territory. We didn’t make big plays. And we had too many mistakes.

“Give credit to Riverside. They played a very spirited game. And they made some big plays to preserve the win.”

Compounding the offensive issues for West St. John was the absence of three starting offensive lineman – LaBeron Thomas, Cailin Cola, and Jaris Thomas.

For a team with a little over 35 players, that can be hard to overcome.

“As a team playing in Class 1A, it makes a big difference,” Valdez said. “But we still gave ourselves some opportunities.”

Riverside put a lot of pressure on that Ram offense by scoring on its opening drive. Darnell Rachal found Austin Vicknair for a 9-yard touchdown pass to cap off a seven play, 66-yard drive. That put Riverside ahead 7-0.

“I didn’t want to stress it to the offense, as to put too much pressure on them, but as the game turned out, getting the early score was a major key,” said Taffi.

Moock’s third quarter fumble recovery and score came as the result of a forced fumble on an option pitch by the Rams. That play killed what could have been a potential game-tying drive – West St. John had drove inside of the Rebel 25.

“It took some pressure off of us,” said Taffi.

Grady Gieger led Riverside in rushing, carrying 10 times for 78 yards. Remi Poirrier added 12 runs for 49 yards.

Kenneth Dabney and Laron Gaudet combined to rush for 77 yards on 13 carries for West St. John. Dray Joseph rushed nine times for 33 yards.

Taffi says that as the offense continues to adjust to his new system, the defense must continue to play as it did on Friday night.

“Our defense has kept us in these games,” he said. “We need it to continue to hold up while our offense catches up.”

The Rams, meanwhile, started 0-5 a year ago before rolling to the 1A state title game,, so the team is hardly taking the 0-2 start as a death knell.

But Valdez says nobody will take that as a reason for complacency, either.

“Nobody’s pushing the panic button. Nobody’s jumping ship,” Valdez said. “When you inherit a team like this one, you want to go out and win from day one. We just have to keep working hard. All of our goals are still there to accomplish.”