Curtis overcomes Riverside in second half

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 27, 2010


RESERVE — For two and a half quarters of Riverside’s Class 2A quarterfinal game against top seeded John Curtis, Riverside did exactly what coach Mickey Roussel preached: eliminate the mistakes that good teams make you pay for.

At that time, Riverside led 7-6. But then came the Rebels’ first big mistake. And indeed, Curtis made them pay.

A shanked punt into the wind by the Rebels’ Darnell Rachal traveled just four yards, Curtis converted a short drive for a touchdown and rode that momentum to a 33-19 victory at Riverside.

The Rebels led 7-6 on a 3-yard touchdown run by Rachal — who was the Rebels’ workhorse on the ground — with 10:04 left in the first half.

Curtis (11-1) embarked on a few long drives in the first half, but fumbled the ball away on two occasions.

“We knew they’d be prepared for us. Especially coming here, they’re a good, tough football team,” said Patriots’ coach J.T. Curtis. “The (cold) weather probably affected ball security on both sides. You can’t make those errors in the playoffs. I am pleased with how we stepped it up in the second half.”

A series of special teams plays shifted momentum permanently in Curtis’ favor, something that echoed the regular season meeting between the teams. First, a misplayed Curtis punt after a Rebels’ third quarter stop traveled 73 yards to the Riverside 13.

Then came Rachal’s shank; Curtis took over on the Riverside 46 and scored in five plays on Brandon Bourgeois’ 3-yard quarterback keeper to make it 12-6 (the two point attempt missed).

Riverside (10-3) went three and out on its next series. But the Rebels tried to reach into their bag of tricks, faking a punt on fourth and two. Rachal took off but gained just one yard.

Both punt plays came out of Riverside’s somewhat unusual punting formation where Rachal takes the snap and sprints right before punting, opening up the chance for a fake.

“It’s feast or famine when you do that,” said Curtis. “We knew his ability to run, pass or punt. On one, he punts it and it rolls for an extra 20 or 30. On the fake, it worked the other way.”

Said Roussel: “He had the option to run or kick there. He saw something and he thought he got a poor spot. Against a John Curtis, you have to take a chance at some point.”

Curtis converted its second straight five play drive, this time on Bourgeois’ second touchdown of the evening, a 2-yard rushing score that made it 19-6 with 10:46 remaining in the game.

Thomas Crouch fumbled the ensuing kickoff to Curtis, which began on the Riverside 22 and scored in six plays, capping off the drive on Torrey Pierce’s second rushing score of the night, making it 26-7 with 7:44 left.

“That really widened the gap,” said Roussel.

Riverside cut the Curtis lead to two touchdowns on a 10-yard Rachal score. After a stop by the Rebel defense though, Curtis slammed the door on any slim comeback hopes on Jacolby Cooper’s 30-yard interception return of a Rachal pass for a touchdown.

Rachal scored one final time on the night, adding a third score with one second left.

Curtis scored first on Pierce’s 46-yard touchdown run, but a two-point pass on what appeared to be a botched extra point attempt failed.

Riverside had a chance to extend its lead late in the first half after a 13-play drive highlighted by a 25-yard Nate Williams run. On fourth and nine from the 24, Riverside called a screen play that the Patriots stuffed with 12 seconds left.

“Curtis isn’t going to let you go downfield there,” said Roussel. “We thought about the field goal, but the wind was pretty tough. I thought we might be able to sneak the screen in.”

The Rebels relied on Rachal’s legs for most of the game, eating clock and keeping the Patriot offense off the field —until the late stages of the third quarter.

“For two and a half quarters, we did what we needed to do to beat a very good football team. It just didn’t unfold for us tonight,” said Roussel.