A bizarre season took another strange twist for Riverside when a power outage just before kickoff of their Division III Quarterfinal game at Dunham forced a change of venues. Following their second road trip of the night, the Rebels got off the bus at Parkview Baptist and proceeded to pull off a 62-42 comeback win over Dunham that featured a 46-point second half.
In a season where the Rebels had to change dates and venues of their season opener against Southern Lab because of one storm, and had their game against South Plaquemines cancelled because of another storm, a blown transformer minutes before a playoff game was not as strange and you might think.
“It's kind of funny how one of the most overused sayings is 'everything happens for a reason' that's never been more fitting than tonight,” said Riverside coach Chris Lachney. “Tonight was a night of craziness. From the electricity going out at (Dunham), to coming over here and having the ups and downs of this game, 62-42?
“All I can say is, everything that's happened to us this year happened because of tonight. God knew what he was doing all year long and he prepared us for tonight and our kids responded. I couldn't be more proud of our program right now.”
“It was a lot of adversity this whole year we've been going through adversity. We were built for this,” said Riverside defensive back/wide receiver/return specialist Garland Robertson, Jr.
Robertson had a spectacular 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first quarter that not only dropped jaws, but more importantly answered Dunham's opening score to tie the game and foreshadowed a resilient night for the Rebels.
“Special teams is a weapon, that one was too easy,” said Robertson. “It was a middle return but they kicked it to the left hash so it was kind of hard to get back to the middle so I jabbed to the right to go to the middle but I saw it was clouded so I went back to the left and I took it down the sideline.”
Trailing 21-10 Riverside showed fight again just before the half when Jordan Loving rifled a pass to Jeremiah Bigham who reached inside the pylon for a 15-yard touchdown closing the gap to 21-16 with 0:13 remaining in the half.
The third quarter was highlighted by four Loving touchdown passes, two of which were set up by Riverside interceptions, one by Shelby White, the other by Robertson.
The second half scoring barrage began with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Loving to Jalen Banks who made a sensational catch in heavy coverage.
“The ball got stuck in between the (defender's) shoulder pad and mine and none of us knew where the ball was and at the last second I saw it and came down with it,” said Banks. “That was the biggest touchdown I had tonight.”
Dunham struck first in the fourth quarter when quarterback Mike Williams converted a fourth-and-goal with a touchdown run to close the gap to 42-35 but again the Rebels countered, this time with the knockout blow.
A Loving-to-Banks 45-yard touchdown pass was followed by a pair of Cheneau touchdown runs, the first of which was set up by a Trevontay Brooks interception.
Those scores gave Loving 6 touchdown passes and Cheneau 3 touchdowns overall for the game.
“Throwing six touchdown passes is special, but a win is even better,” said Loving. “It's all due to the players and coaches around me which allows the big numbers.”
“The three touchdowns are falling behind Jeremy Gibson,” said Cheneau. “I was talking to him as he prepared for (ACL) surgery. I had to put it on for him tonight. It was just a crazy night throughout the week we were just preparing for a hard fight against one of the best teams out here. And we just came out and executed the things we had to do.”
“This isn't about one person. This is about an entire group of young men, an entire community that's banded together that's really locked horns here to make a run at the (Superdome) and that's where we're headed. That's where we want to be. I couldn't be more proud of our football team,” said Lachney.
For the first time since the 54-0 season-opening win against Southern Lab, Riverside's winning percentage is over .500 at 5-4. The defending Division III State Champs advance to the semifinals where they will face No.1 seed Notre Dame at Crowley Gardiner Memorial Stadium next Friday at 7:00 p.m.
“This win was important for us as seniors,” said Riverside defensive end La'Boe Bridges. “We went through adversity and switching from field-to-field, we never folded. We've been through a lot this year, that didn't affect us at all, that's normal.”
“Moving onto the semifinals as a senior is really big time,” said Banks. “All the guys that we had before us really paved the way for us and we're really stepping into our roles now.”
“It's really hard to find words to describe that crazy game,” said Loving. “I'm just so proud to be a part of this team. I thought we did a really good job of making normal out of chaos. Adversity hit us early on with the light situation and then again being down 10 early. We as a whole just stuck to the course, kept fighting for each other. We were able to execute in the clutch and find a way to advance to next week due to every person on this team.”
“Just to have the guts to comeback, nobody quit,” said Robertson. “Everybody believed that we could win, even when we were losing at halftime, it just shows us how tough we are.”