It’s been 14 years since Riverside coach Bill Stubbs last stepped onto the turf in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to coach a football game.
On Friday when he returns, Stubbs will attempt to win his fourth championship game in as many tries and his first at Riverside.
After the top-seeded Rebels (11-1) topped St. Charles a week ago in the semifinals, an emotional Stubbs couldn’t hold back his emotions during his postgame interview.
Stubbs, 61, won three Class 4A championships at Salmen from 1997-2001 before taking an 11-year hiatus from coaching. Stubbs was hired to lead Riverside before the 2012 season, which began a process that has led him and Riverside back to the Dome for the first time since 2000.
“The joy I get out of coaching football today is more than I did years ago,” Stubbs said. “What this brings to young men, the friendships built through coaching staffs and players, there’s a lot of joy in that for me. To be able to walk off the field Friday, when this is complete and say ‘We’re the best,’ accentuates all the things we’ve talked about over the years. Trying to cap that with a championship ring gives the players something to remember for life, and that would make it all complete to me.”
Stubbs directed Salmen to state titles in 1994, 1995 and 2000, which is also the last time Riverside reached the state final under Stubbs’ predecessor Mickey Roussel.
Though it’s been 14 years since he last coached in a championship game, Riverside’s coach knows there are still certain obstacles a team must overcome in order to hoist the trophy.
“A lot of things have changed since the last time I was there,” Stubbs said, “but you don’t change a lot. You try to take all the glitter off it and stay as focused as you can. There’s so many outside specks (distractions), it’s constantly on our minds.
“It’s two hours of playing your very best. You have to pay attention to all the details that come into play, and after practice, there’s no doubt in any player’s minds what will happen on Friday.”
Riverside will play No. 3 Notre Dame in the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic Division III state championship game at 1:30 p.m. Friday.
The Rebels have won 11 consecutive games, after losing 29-28 to John Ehret, a Class 5A semifinalist, to open the season.
It would also mark the first LHSAA title for the Riverside football program if they win.
“They’ve put in as much hard work as I’ve seen the past four years,” Stubbs said. “This is what we wanted to do. The team has grown over the year. The demands they’ve placed on themselves have been really impressive. The old saying ‘Leave no stones unturned’ — well, these guys haven’t.
“We’re at a point where there’s no more expectations. They understand all the hard work to get to this point and the idea is to win the whole thing. I can’t see anything else happening.
“Our expectation is to win this ballgame.”