Rebels, Greenies meet to likely decide 8-2A

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, October 15, 2013


LAPLACE — Riverside’s season opener against Evangel was a pretty high-profile game. Same, too, for its River Region clash with West St. John in Week 3.
But everything the Rebels have done over the past month has been building up to this: 5-1 Riverside hosting 6-0 Newman, the victor almost assuredly going on to bank the District 8-2A championship.
The game will be televised on Fox Sports New Orleans Thursday night with a kickoff set for 7 p.m. 
The Rebels and Greenies have played in plenty of memorable contests over the past few seasons of district competition. But those games were played in the shadow of a district featuring perennial champion John Curtis and without the fanfare of a championship game.
Now? The winner ends a longtime drought, no matter who it is.
“Neither one of us has been a district champion for a long time. I think here at Riverside, it’s been 12 years,” said Rebels’ coach Bill Stubbs. “It’s gonna be two very talented teams that have something significant to play for.”
Each team is undefeated through three district matchups thus far.  The Rebels have outscored their 8-2A competition by a combined score of 173-14; the Greenies have posted a 148-34 margin.
Both teams are known for their offensive firepower and have been for awhile: when Riverside and Newman get together, it’s typically for a shootout. Last season, the Rebels emerged a 48-44 winner in Reserve, winning the night on a 23-yard touchdown pass from Deuce Wallace to Von Julien with nine seconds left. That reception capped a 13-catch, 236 yard, three-touchdown night for Julien. 
That game saw a battle between two stellar quarterbacks. Wallace finished with 352 yards and four touchdowns. Newman’s Jabiari Tyler passed for 456 yards and four scores while rushing for 132 yards and two more scores. Tyler attempted 54 passes and ran 29 times in the game.
This season, Tyler’s off to another tremendous campaign, but he hasn’t had to be the one-man show he was a year ago. Tailback Kendall Bussey is back from injury after being sidelined last season. The result is a Newman team that scored over 50 points in each of its first five games and a “mere” 41 in its last tilt, a 41-14 win over St. James. Tyler accounted for 257 total yards and four touchdowns in that win, while Bussey chimed in 81 rushing yards and two scores.
“Tyler had to kind of do it on his own a lot last year,” said Stubbs. “With Bussey being back, they’re really balanced across the board. Now they’ve got one of the best backs in the Metro area back there with (Tyler). That’s a concern to us and just about everyone else.’
“All year we work on technique … you need to wrap these guys up. Everyone’s running to the ball. If we don’t, I suspect we won’t be too pleased at night’s end. If we do, then I like our chances.”
Stubbs points to the Rebels’ defensive front as the team’s biggest X-factor this week. Led by Richie George and Joe Anderson, Riverside’s front has been key to a massive defensive turnaround this season. The Rebels have held four teams to 14 points or less. It held Evangel to its second lowest points output this season (29). Ditto for West St. John (32).
“It’s hard to figure this game out. Both teams are so dynamic in what they do offensively,” said Stubbs.  “There are a lot of similarities. Who plays better defense is probably what’s gonna determine this thing. Our defensive front is really coming into its own. I really like how we’re playing on that side of the ball.’
“But if I had to judge if this is going to be high-scoring, or low scoring … that’s tough. But with the athletes out there, there’s a strong chance you’ll see a lot of fireworks.”
Both teams incorporate the zone-read in their offense. That’s been a new focus for the Rebels this season, as the team has scaled back its pass-heavy attack a bit to allow for more running in an attempt to control tempo.
Along the way, Riverside has found a quartet of rushers in Brandon Sanders, DeAndre Wilson, Hardell Mack and Kendall Martin. Sanders has been sidelined after starting strong this season, but the latter three have come on in recent weeks.
Martin was recently moved to tailback from quarterback. Mack, a freshman, has erupted for 159 yards and five touchdowns over the past two weeks while averaging 10.6 yards per carry. Wilson, Sanders and Martin are sophomores.
Stopping Tyler will be the primary goal, Stubbs said, not surprisingly after the quarterback’s explosive performance last season.
“He offers a number of challenges,” said Stubbs. “He throws it very effectively. But he’s also got wheels. He can take off and really give you fits on the second level.”
If the Rebels concentrate too much on the Newman’s backfield, though, senior receiver Justin Harrell could break the game open. Harrell, a senior who scored twice against Riverside last season, is the Greenies’ top receiver. 
“They like to get it out to him on bubble screens, now-routes,” said Stubbs. “And he can get those yards after catch.’
“If we can get consistent pressure on (Tyler), we’ll be in really good shape. But at the same time, those guys don’t need a whole lot of space to break a big play.”