Alas, the Rebels are returning to the Dome.
No. 1 Riverside Academy turned in a dominant second half to defeat No. 5 St. Charles 35-14 in the Division III state semifinals Friday night at Mickey Roussel Field.
What has been a process four years in the making, the Rebels (11-1) are returning to the Superdome for the first time since 2000.
The top-seeded Rebels will face No. 3 Notre Dame in the Division III championship game at 1:30 p.m. Friday in the Super Dome.
When Bill Stubbs took over at the Reserve school, his current seniors were freshmen. Four years later, after a handful of playoff exits, the unit is now going to compete for championship rings.
“It feels great for the seniors,” an emotional Stubbs said after his team’s 11th consecutive win. “I’m real excited for those guys. We’ve been together four years, and they’ve worked their butts off. This team would do anything for those guys. We’re just a close unit, and I don’t think it could’ve happened to a better group.”
“Now we’ve got another game,” the coach added. “Let’s go win this.”
Tied at 7-7 at intermission, Riverside put forth a sound effort on both sides of the ball to notch the victory.
After being limited to three possessions spanning six minutes in the first half, Riverside scored on four of five series over the final two quarters.
Quarterback Jared Butler keyed the offensive turnaround, throwing for 158 yards and two touchdowns, scores to Tyler Gauthier covering 10 and 48 yards, and another 95 yards and a score on the ground.
Butler orchestrated scoring drives on each of the final four possessions and helped the offense post 221 of its 323 total yards in the second half.
Butler played way above his age, teammate Herb McGee said.
“I’ve got Jared Butler, a great friend of mine, and as young as he is, he’s able to lead us,” said McGee, who finished with three catches for 41 yards. “That speaks volumes. It’s a great feeling.”
Riverside had difficulty slowing down St. Charles’ second-string quarterback Lloyd Nash in the early going.
Nash drove the Comets (10-3) 77 yards in 17 plays to drain 8:35 off the clock on its opening series before punching in the score from 4 yards out to take an 7-0 lead.
However, that was the last time St. Charles moved easily against the Rebels defense.
Riverside forced three punts, including a pair of three-and-outs, in the second half, and limited the Comets to 34 yards and three first downs in that span. St. Charles’ second touchdown of the game didn’t come until the game was out of reach with 4:12 remaining.
“We knew what we were going to get. This is the playoffs, and everyone plays as good as they possibly can,” Stubbs said. “We settled down and did what we had to do in the second half. We had to contain the quarterback that gave us some fits early on. We settled down and played great defensive in the second half.”