METAIRIE – The final score may read as a 42-20 loss for Riverside Academy on Friday night to Country Day in District 9-2A action Friday afternoon, but the key moment of the game came with the game tied 14-14 to start the second half.
Riverside’s defense held down a prolific Cajuns offense in the first half and the Rebels got the ball to open the second half. Starting at their own 42, the Rebels got a quick 9 yards on first down on a run by Louis Cheneau and picked up a first down a few plays later at the County Day 48.
After a series of penalties against Riverside, the Rebels at one point face a second-and-40 and eventually had to punt.
The Cajuns kept the ball in the hands of quarterback Justin Ibieta, who either ran or passed for six-straight plays. Two plays later, Nicky Corchiani scored on a 4-yard run to put Country Day on top 21-14. Ibieta amassed slightly less than 400 yards of total offense, including almost 150 rushing.
“Country Day was able to sustain drives. Everything we did good on offense there seemed to be a piece of laundry down. I can’t wait to go back and look at the tape and see how many of those calls were legit or not,” Riverside coach Kevin Dizer said. “Hat’s off to Country Day, that drive was big for them and that kind of took the wind out of us a little bit.
“We are moving the ball, they don’t stop us, and magically, we’ve got second-and-40, how does that happen?”
“Any score is a big score when you are playing a good football team like Riverside,” Country Day coach Joe Chango said. “We were able to hang in there and score some points in the second half when we needed to and our kids were resilient.”
Second-ranked Country Day (9-0 overall, 3-0 in district) marched 80 yards on its next drive. The Rebel defense couldn’t get off the field as the Cajuns converted on several third- and fourth-down situations to keep the drive alive.
The Cajuns culminated a 15-play drive that stretched into the opening moments of the fourth quarter when Buckner Heebe scored on a 1-yard run to extend Country Day’s lead to 28-14.
Riverside (2-6 overall, 2-2 in district) answered on its next possession with a 1-yard touchdown run of its own by Cheneau. On the extra-point attempt, the Cajuns were called for being offside. The Rebels elected to go for a two-point conversion but a pass from quarterback Gage Larvadain bounced from Kash Foley to a Country Day defender and Isaiah Bigham, but no one could haul the ball in as Riverside trailed 28-20 with 7:37 left in the game.
After Country Day scored on a 7-yard run by Ibieta to make it 35-20, the Cajuns pulled off – and recovered – an onside kick.
Three plays later, Ibieta handed off to a Cajuns running back, who pitched the ball back to Ibieta, with the quarterback then throwing the ball on the flea-flicker play to Christian Becnel in the end zone for a 22-yard score that pushed the Country Day lead to 42-20 with 2:41 left in the game.
“That’s Joe Chango,” Dizer said. “We prepared for it and we have young players. This is my fourth year playing against Country Day and Coach Chango and that’s him to a T. You try to get your kids prepared for that but you don’t expect anybody to onside kick it up by 13. That’s Coach Chango and that doesn’t surprise me. If he wants to do that, that’s fine. But what does around comes back around.”
After Country Day scored to tie the game 7-7, the Cajuns were marching for what appeared to be Country Day’s first lead of the game.
Riverside’s Ahmonte Watkins had other designs, picking off an Ibieta pass at the Rebels’ 1-yard line.
A personal foul call against the Cajuns got Riverside out of the shadow of its own end zone with a first down at the Rebels’ 17.
Aided by another personal foul call and a facemask penalty, the Rebels marched 99 yard, culminating the 14-play drive on a 2-yard run by Larvadain to give Riverside a 14-7 lead with 2:29 left in the second quarter.
Country Day countered on its next drive on a 6-yard pass from Ibieta to Tyler Williams with by 1:39 left before halftime made the score 14-14 at the break.
After Riverside’s defense forced a punt on the game’s initial possession, a punt return gave the Rebels the ball in good field position.
The Rebels took advantage with a 1-yard run by Cheneau to give Riverside a 7-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.
Miscues, Chango said, was the difference between the first and second half of the game.
“We had made some mistakes and some penalties went against us in the first half that we weren’t happy about and that settled down in the second half. In the second half, we played better and we were not behind the chains as much and we were able to move the ball more consistently. A couple of things opened up for us and we were able to put some points up,” said Chango.