It took Riverside Academy 15 years to get back to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
It took just one 14-second stretch late in the first half, coupled with 48 minutes of Notre Dame’s relentless defense, to dash the Rebels’ championship hopes.
Riverside’s normally high-octane offense was limited to just 135 yards in a 13-3 defensive struggle at Friday’s Allstate Sugar Bowl Prep Classic Division III select state championship game.
“The holes weren’t as big as usual; windows were tighter than usual,” Riverside quarterback Jared Butler said. “But that’s still no excuse.”
Top seed Riverside (11-2) entered the game riding an 11-game winning streak and averaging 36.3 points, but it was held to its lowest point total since a 12-6 loss to South Plaquemines in 2013. Riverside, seeking its first state title, was held to minus-26 rushing yards.
“They wanted to make us one-dimensional, and I think they did,” Riverside coach Bill Stubbs said. “They’re technically very good and strong up front. Those four guys up front are as good as any I’ve seen.”
Notre Dame finished 14-0, riding its defense to the school’s fifth title and first since 2009.
The Pioneers gave up just 52 points all season. The first-team defense gave up just five touchdowns, and the team posted eight shutouts.
The only thing that prevented a ninth shutout was a 41-yard field goal by Riverside’s Tyler Gauthier with 1:32 left in the first quarter. It came after Riverside’s Trey Catoire blocked a Notre Dame punt to set the Rebels up at the 12-yard line. But Riverside lost 9 yards on the drive and had to settle for the field goal.
That was all the Rebels would get.
Notre Dame got all the points it needed in a late-second-quarter flurry, using a trick play to set up its first score. Adam Berken came around on a reverse and took the handoff from quarterback Joe Faulk, then connected with Boedy Borill for a 55-yard completion.
Faulk connected with Ethan Smith on the next play for a 3-yard touchdown with 18 seconds left in the half.
Riverside fumbled the ensuing kickoff, and the Pioneers made the Rebels play.
Faulk threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Borill with 4 seconds left, quickly turning Riverside’s 3-0 lead into a 10-point deficit.
“I don’t think that’s where we lost the football game,” Stubbs said. “I don’t think we executed.”
That 10-point cushion was plenty for Notre Dame.
“They couldn’t run the ball,” Notre Dame coach Lewis Cook said. “We felt like if we could make them one-dimensional, we would have a good chance.”
Riverside used three quarterbacks in the game. Butler started but left the game after injuring his neck in the first quarter. He was relieved by Jordan Loving, who was supposed to be the starter coming into the season before a nagging back injury sidelined him.
He made his season debut Friday. Herb McGee, the versatile senior receiver, took snaps as well.
Loving, named Most Outstanding Player for Riverside, completed 9 of 17 passes for 109 yards and two interceptions. McGee was 1-of-4 for 31 yards and also had 83 receiving yards on six catches.
“We always have this saying that the other team can’t stop us; we can only stop ourselves,” McGee said. “I don’t think it had too much to do with them. I think it was just us. We didn’t execute, and it showed on the scoreboard.”
Even Veron led Riverside with 9.5 tackles, including two for loss. Cardez Joseph finished with 8.5 tackles as Riverside held the Pioneers to 212 yards.
“Defensively, I thought we played a heck of a football game,” Stubbs said. “We were right there.”
Stubbs was seeking his fourth state title after winning three at Salmen, but his first at Riverside will have to wait.
“At this point and time, it’s kind of numb,” he said. “We had a great group of young men. Everything that was asked from them since last year, they’ve done. They bought into what we were trying to sell. It’s going to take a little bit of time. It’s still numb.”