Walker: Riverside football making waves _lowres

Advocate file photo by KYLE ENCAR Riverside receiver Tyler Gauthier scores on a 52-yard pass against Newman last season.

It was just a routine point-after-touchdown kick, one that Riverside Academy’s Tyler Gauthier had attempted — and usually made — dozens of times before. So why was he so sweaty? And why was he breathing so darned hard?

Probably because only seconds before, Gauthier, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior, had just sprinted 80 yards up the field, hauling in a perfectly thrown pass from quarterback Jared Butler and dashing away from a Country Day defender for the touchdown that would seal the Rebels’ 43-24 win over the Cajuns. Well, after he nailed that extra point, that is.

It was Gauthier’s fifth extra point of the night and came along with a pair of field goals — one a career-high and school record 52 yards. In all, Gauthier accounted for 17 of the Rebels’ 43 points and had four catches for 99 yards. But Gauthier’s job wasn’t done.

Still weary from that run, Gauthier sprinted back onto the field to kick off for the Rebels. And he still kicked it into the end zone for a touchback.

It was just a typical night for Gauthier, who was 5-for-5 on PATs and caught a 74-yard touchdown pass the previous week in a 35-3 win against St. Charles Catholic. This year he is 5-of-6 on field goals with a 52-yard long, 26-of-28 on PATs (two were blocked) and has hit 98 percent of his kickoffs into the end zone.

“What I do is hard,” Gauthier said. “After a game, I’m pretty sore from all the running and kicking I have to do. I just go full out every down.”

And don’t think Riverside coach Bill Stubbs doesn’t know it.

“A lot of guys take stuff like that for granted,” Stubbs said. “But we are truly gifted. Tyler is an extremely athletic young man. He’s extremely valuable to us and to what we do.”

Gauthier said he was just another short wide receiver when he got to Riverside. But one day former coach Mickey Roussel was holding tryouts for kickers, and he gave it a shot.

“I kicked it once, and they said, ‘Do that again,’ ” Gauthier said. “Then I did it again, and they said ‘Third time’s the charm.’ After that, coach Mickey said, ‘OK. From now on you’re going to go over there and work with the kickers.’ ”

Gauthier said he works hard to keep his body in shape for games, doing lots of stretching every day to maintain his flexibility, icing down when necessary and loading up on potassium to keep the cramps at bay.

But even he can’t explain how he keeps catching those passes. Riverside’s quarterbacks — and there have been three of those this season thanks to injuries — have a slew of targets to choose from, including 6-1, 190-pound Herb McGee (who filled in quite capably at quarterback for a time), and 6-3 sophomore Jalen Banks.

“I’m, like, the shortest wide receiver we have,” Gauthier said.

“I guess they see me and don’t worry about me. But that’s a mistake.”

“He’s a great wide receiver,” McGee said. “He’s one of those chippy guys. He’s very clutch. And he’s one of the fastest white guys I know.”

The Rebels needed all of everyone’s talents this year to put themselves where they are this week — ranked No. 3 in the state in Class 2A and on the verge of clinching the District 12-2A championship against Sophie B. Wright on Friday.

Riverside is 7-1, having won seven games in a row following a season-opening 29-28 loss to Ehret. And they’ve done it with a wide receiver (McGee) playing quarterback after the backup (Butler) was injured after losing the starter (Jordan Loving).

“We had pretty high expectations going into this season,” Stubbs said. “Especially with Jordan as our starter after the success we had last year. But we’ve had to make some movements, move some kids around.”

And the Rebels have accomplished it all with a more beefed-up schedule from last year, one that included Class 5A opponents Ehret and Hahnville, Class 4A opponent Plaquemine and a district reunion with cross-town foe St. Charles.

“That’s really made a difference,” Stubbs said. “The main thing our kids have right now is confidence.”