STATE CHAMPS: Riverside rolls Comets, 47-20, for football title

Published 6:41 pm Friday, December 2, 2016

NEW ORLEANS — The fifth time proved to be the charm for Riverside Academy.

There are some who will say it was worth the wait.

After four previous attempts to leave the Superdome with a golden trophy came up short, the Riverside Academy Rebels finally achieved their goal Friday afternoon.

Not only did they capture their first Louisiana High School Athletic Association football title, they did it with a decisive 47-20 victory over their biggest rival, St. Charles Catholic High School.

Just last year, the Rebels left Poydras Street with the team’s fourth runner-up trophy.

That trip fueled this win.

Riverside celebrates its first Louisiana High School Athletic Association football title.

Riverside celebrates its first Louisiana High School Athletic Association football title.

“Last year was hard,” said Rebels coach Bill Stubbs, who won three previous championships as the coach of Salmen High School. “Sitting at this table was hard. Now these kids have had the opportunity to get to the top of the mountain.”

Riverside quarterback Jordan Loving, who last year sat forlornly at the post-game interview table with the Player of the Game award from the losing side, was much more appreciative of his award this year.

The junior, who missed all but the 2015 championship game due to a back injury, was 17 of 21 for 205 yards and two touchdowns on Friday. Both of those touchdown passes were to Avonti Cannon, who finished with three catches for 85 yards, including a 54-yard score.

“We had a meeting after that game last December,” Loving said. “We just challenged ourselves to get back here.”

Loving had many weapons to choose from. Kash Foley had six catches for 48 yards. Jeremy Banks had two catches, plus he ran for a 17-yard touchdown.

Running back Jeremy Gibson rushed for 125 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries.

“We’re just so dynamic on offense,” Stubbs said.

A SCC 35-yard punt was returned 43 yards for a TD by RA's Garland Robertson Jr.

An SCC 35-yard punt was returned 43 yards for a TD by RA’s Garland Robertson Jr.

St. Charles Catholic, which won the Class 3A title in 2011, surprised many by reaching its fourth championship game. The Comets had lost 20 of 22 starters from last year’s team, which fell in the semifinals to Riverside.

“I’m just tickled pink for these kids that they got this far,” Comets coach Frank Monica said. “No one gave them a chance.”

The Comets overachieved in large part thanks to the play of quarterback Lloyd Nash. The junior, who was named the Comets’ Player of the Game, rushed for 102 yards and one touchdown, plus he was 8 of 11 for 87 yards passing.

The Comets simply didn’t have as many weapons.

“Everybody knew we were a one-dimensional team,” Monica said. “We were hoping our defense would give us a little more of a chance. That didn’t happen.”

The Comets started out strong. Nash opened game with a 33-yard gain on the opening drive and quickly had his team at the Rebels’ 13-yard line. But on second-and-9, Nash was stopped in the backfield and Riverside’s Trey Catoire stripped him of the ball. Catoire then sprinted the other way 87 yards for his first varsity touchdown.

“It was surreal,” Catoire said. “I couldn’t believe it was really happening. It was like a dream.”

St. Charles came right back with another drive, this one covering 80 yards on 10 plays. Tim Williams scored from the 1 to tie the game at 7 with 2:47 remaining in the first quarter.

From that point on, it was all Riverside. The Rebels scored 27 points in the second quarter.

Banks broke the tie when he scored on a 17-yard run with 10:03 remaining in the half, giving Riverside a 14-7 lead. Gibson scored on an 11-yard run with 5:11 remaining but the PAT failed, leaving the Rebels with a 20-7 lead. Loving connected with Cannon for a 27-yard touchdown with 1:09 remaining to make it 27-7 then, with 23 seconds remaining in the half, Garland Robertson returned a St. Charles punt 43 yards for a touchdown. That gave the Rebels a 34-7 lead at the half.

The Rebels added a 54-yard touchdown pass from Loving to Cannon with 9:21 remaining in the third.

St. Charles capped the scoring when Nash ran for a 3-yard touchdown with 2:58 remaining in the game.

It was the second meeting between the two St. John the Baptist Parish private schools this season, the 20th overall. Riverside won both.

The two schools had only battled one other time for a championship of any kind, the 1998 softball title won by the Lady Comets.

Riverside, an eight-time champion in the old Louisiana Independent Schools Association, had never won an LHSAA football title before today.