After Riverside held visiting 4A Salmen to no points on the first drive of overtime, Rebels head coach Mickey Roussel was ready to kick a field goal on first down of Riverside’s ensuing drive. But after a conversation with offensive coordinator Damien Melancon, Roussel changed his mind, and he’s glad he did.
On Riverside’s second offensive play of overtime, Jonquial Sanders took a handoff and ran four yards off left tackle for the game-winning touchdown, as the Rebels not only knocked off a 4A opponent 15-9, but also avenged a disappointing season opening loss last week to Loranger.
“I normally would have kicked a field goal on first down,” said Roussel. “But (Melancon) told me Salmen was tired on defense and we were going to run speed. I let them guys make the decision and we got the ball in the end zone and we won.”
The game-winning touchdown was a storybook way to end the first varsity game of Sanders’ varsity career.
“We called a 38-speed play,” said Sanders who sat out last season after transferring from St. Charles. “I saw a nice little hole and I just hit it. We worked hard all week, and I just wanted us to win.”
Sanders missed Riverside’s season-opening 7-2 loss last week at Loranger after suffering an injury early in the Ed Reed River Parish Jamboree. He finished his varsity debut with a team-high 53 yards rushing on 13 carries.
“He’s one of our offensive players,” said Roussel. He’s got some good speed and he’s just going to get better-and-better.
Salmen’s defense set the tone early when Larry Warren intercepted a Riverside screen pass, and took it the distance, a 42-yard touchdown return as the Spartans jumped on top leading 6-nothing.
Riverside answered quickly, going 80-yards on the ensuing possession, the final four coming from Nate Willams on a touchdown run helping the Rebels to a 7-6 halftime lead.
In the third quarter, it was the Riverside special teams and defense teaming up for the game’s next score. It was set up by a punt from Tate Scioneaux that was downed at the one by Brandon Millet.
That proved to be big as Salmen was unable to get out of the shadow’s of its own end zone. On the Spartans first offensive play, star running back Chris Thomas, who finished with a game-high 169 yards on 29 carries, was met behind the goal line the instant he took the handoff. Riverside’s Trent Fey was first to penetrate Salmen’s backfield, but by no means the last. Senior linebacker Kalen Jenkins was next, then as many as 6 other Rebel defenders pounced on Thomas in the end zone, forcing Riverside’s second safety in as many weeks and the Rebels had increased their lead to 9-6.
After a Devin Montelongo 33-yard field goal tied it 9, both teams had a chance to win it in regulation.
Salmen had a dropped pass in the end zone, then followed with a missed 38-yard field goal.
Riverside’s C.J. Elder just missed a 44-yard goal as time expired.
“C.J. is great kicker for us,” said Roussel. “I let the clock run down to three seconds, we thought he was going to make it. It looked far enough he just missed it on the right edge. I had all the confidence in the world in C.J., knowing that if he didn’t make it, we’re going to overtime.”
Riverside won the overtime coin toss, and elected to start on defense. Like Roussel’s decision to listen to some in-game decision advice from his offensive coordinator, this proved to be the right call.
After the Rebels defense held the Spartans to a three-and-out, Salmen botched the field goal attempt leading to Riverside’s heroics.
It was ironic that Sanders would score the game-winner, since this was his first career game in varsity ball. He sat out one season after transferring from St. Charles, then missed the season opener due to an injury suffered in the Ed Reed Parish Jamboree.
“We worked hard all week,” said Sanders who finished with a team-high 53 yards rushing. “I just wanted us to win. (Salmen) was pretty good; they came hard, but we came harder.”
“It was a great win,” said Roussel. “Especially after the tough loss last week in the slop up in Loranger. We knew what Salmen was all about. I thought since last Saturday morning when we watched film, I thought we had a chance. We believed that we could do it, especially the way our defense has been playing. This was a great, great win for our program.”
Riverside moves to 1-1 overall and will look to build on its momentum next Friday night at home against Brusly. For Salmen, it was the second consecutive overtime loss to open the season.