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Riverside Rebels defense lights up Country Day in 32-7 triumph

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  • Feature Story
  • Game Recap
  • By:
  • George Becnel
  • Posted:
  • October 29, 2016 - 2:45am

Riverside Academy linebacker Jared Hymel (45) has his sights set on Country Day quarterback Christian Kerut during the Rebels' 32-7 win Friday night.

METAIRIE, La. – You could call it Friday Night (Temporary) Lights.

In order to play Friday night’s District 12-2A clash between Riverside Academy and Country Day in prime time, the Cajuns rented construction lights.

Country Day’s home field has no lights, so games are generally played on Friday afternoons. With both teams going into the game 3-0 in district play and the league crown potentially on the line, the contest was slated to be played Friday at Muss Bertolino Stadium in Kenner. In the days leading up to the clash, the decision was made by Country Day officials to play the game at home under the (portable) lights.

The game’s most illuminating moments came at the start of the second half.

Trailing 13-7 to start the third quarter, the Cajuns pulled off what they had done so successfully a week earlier against Newman – execute an onside kick.

Country Day pulled it off twice against Newman, stealing a pair of possessions that eventually led to touchdowns in a whopping 51-21 victory.

There was a bit of a dispute as to if the ball had travelled the needed 10 yards before it was touched by a Country Day player. The officials ruled in favor of the Cajuns, giving Country Day the ball at the Country Day 45.

A personal-foul penalty one play later, coupled with the onside kick decision, seemed to irk a large contingent of Riverside fans who made the journey to Metairie and motivate the Rebels.

On the following play, Country Day quarterback Christian Kerut fumbled while being sacked, with Amauchech Nnaji-Collins recovering for the Rebels at the Riverside 47-yard line.

“It just came out of nowhere. We were in a spot where we didn’t know what to do until we had to energize ourselves that we could do it and the moment came and we got it,” Nnaji-Collins.

After getting limited carries the first half, running back Jeremy Gibson was handed the ball eight times in a 10-play drive. He powered the final 4 yards across the end zone for a 19-7 Riverside lead that seemed to springboard the Rebels to a 32-7 victory.

“I didn’t even think I scored. I looked up and everybody was like, ‘you scored, you scored, you scored,’” said Gibson.

“We hang our hats on us being balanced. We know when it gets tight we have Louis (Cheneau), Jeremy and Hardell (Mack), so we have a real good stable of backs,” Riverside coach Bill Stubbs said.

It was all part of an effort to get the running game going in the second half.

“The second half we said we would just run the ball down their throat and come and dominate. The first half, we let up a little bit after we scored. We came out and thought we could just roll our hats and win. They showed us they could compete with us so in the second half we just said we would run the ball,” said Gibson.

Riverside (7-1 overall, 4-0 in district) made a change in the second half as well. Kerut and the Country Day offense hurt the Rebels in the first half with the short passing game, especially over the middle. The Cajuns moved the ball some in the first half, although the high-powered Country Day offense was held to a single touchdown during the first two quarters.

Even that changed in the second half as the Riverside defense adjusted, took away the middle portion of Country Day’s passing game and increased the pressure on Kerut.

“We had to make a little adjustment at halftime,” said Chris Lachney, Riverside’s defensive coordinator. “They came out and had a different plan that we had prepared for this week and we had to kind of think on our feet a little bit. Hats off to our kids for being able to make that adjustment and draw some parallels from a couple of weeks ago from a game plan we used against Newman because what they (the Cajuns) were doing to us was very similar to what Newman did.”

“We went back to what we did against Newman. I think we just ran it the whole time and it’s one of the best things we run. You go back to what you do best,” said Rebels linebacker Harrison Heckathorn.

“Once we started getting some pressure on (Kerut) and throwing him out of his rhythm, I think then the tide turned a little bit,” said Stubbs.

Gibson later added a 14-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter and Jalen Banks hauled in a 39-yard scoring pass from Jordan Loving with less than three minutes left in the game to give the Rebels their 32-7 triumph over the previously unbeaten Cajuns.

Three plays into the game’s opening possession, Riverside linebacker Jared Hymel came up with an interception, giving the Rebels the ball at the Country Day 36. That set up an eventual 1-yard quarterback sneak to give Riverside a 7-0 lead.

“We had to calm the circus and (Kerut) threw it right to me,” Hymel said.

A rough-the-punter penalty against the Rebels kept Country Day’s next drive alive. Following a 41-yard toss from Kerut to a well-defended Price Petagna down to the 1-yard line, Jake Gitter scored from a yard out to tie the game with 5:18 remaining in the first quarter.

An 8-yard touchdown pass from Loving to Jared Butler put Riverside back on top 13-7 less than a minute into the second quarter.

Country Day (8-1 overall, 3-1 in district) reached the Riverside 26 with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. After a loss of 2 yards, a pass by Kerut glanced off the hands of a Cajun receiver, with Heckathorn coming up with the interception that allowed the Rebels to maintain the lead at halftime.

“It happened at the right time. They were driving a long drive. I saw it pop up in the air and just got it,” Heckathorn said.

Along with Hymel and Heckathorn, Mack also picked off Kerut in the second half.

Despite the win, Stubbs said he was not particularly pleased with some aspects of the Rebels’ play.

“I was a little bit distressed in our mental execution,” said Stubbs, whose team suffered an uncharacteristic number of penalties in the game. “I don’t think we stayed mentally sharp through the entire night.”

“I thought the kids would come out and play much better in the second half,” he continued. “Defensively, they played very, very well the second half. Offensively, I was a little upset with the timing of things and we left a lot of opportunities on the field tonight.”

George Becnel | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

George Becnel is an award-winning journalist and has been a sports writer and editor for more than 30 years.