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.

Thanks Riverside.

There was a time when The New Orleans Advocate’s Small School Super 10 looked like perhaps it should undergo a name change.

Something like perhaps John Curtis and the Other 9 seemed more appropriate for this newspaper’s rankings of the top schools in Class 3A, 2A and 1A.

Curtis has held the top spot every week since the rankings began last season.

And the top spot has never really been in question.

But Riverside, after its total domination of Newman on Friday night, at least made a strong case for the top spot in a flawless performance in the 55-14 blowout.

“It may have been our best game execution wise,” Riverside coach Bill Stubbs said. “We played a pretty good game.”

OK, that’s a bit of an understatement.

Beating Newman wasn’t a shocker.

But how they beat the Greenies was.

The Rebels dominated on offense, piling up 507 total yards and scoring points againt perenial power Newman at just as fast a rate as it did the previous two weeks against overmatched Cohen and Fisher.

They dominated on defense, holding a Newman team that was averaging right at 46 points per game to just two touchdowns.

And they dominated on special teams. (Tyler Gauthier, whose leg is as strong as anyone around, kicked off 10 times and most, if not all, went into the end zone for touchbacks. He also made 40- and 35-yard field goals. One of those touchbacks came right after he hauled in a 52-yard touchdown reception.)

They improved to 7-0 and vaulted from No. 4 to No. 2 in the Super 10 and from third to second in the Louisiana Sports Writers Association 2A poll.

But the Rebels are more concerned about where they are at the end of the season.

Players talked afterwards about making the trip from Reserve to Poydras Street in December and playing in the Super Dome.

The school has never won a football state championship.

And if defense wins championships, the Rebels look to have a shot.

They compete in Class 2A, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at their Class 5A-looking defensive line, led by Joe Anderson and mammoth (6-foot-3, 350) Richie George. Anderson is one of the state’s most coveted recruits.

“A lot of people say it’s an SEC defensive line,” Stubbs said. “We hang our hat on defense. We know we have great skill players, but you are not going to get where you need to get unless you are playing good defense. Those guys aren’t just big and strong, but they are also quick and they play hard.”

The offense is just as talented, with receivers Von Julien and Herb McGee outrunning and outjumping defensive backs and catching passes from freshman quarterback Jordan Loving.

Stubbs, who won three state championships when he coached at Salmen, isn’t surprised by the abundance of talent at the school in Reserve.

“St. John the Baptist Parrish is loaded with athletes,” Stubbs said. “It’s one of the most fertile grounds of athletes in the state. We are trying to build a winning culture through athletics that will be successful for the long haul.”

The Riverside boys basketball team, under the direction of Timmy Byrd, has experienced that success. The Rebels have won the past two Class 2A state championships and brought home the state title four of the last five years.

“We are trying to be excellent in every sport,” said Byrd, who also serves as athletic director. “And we’re not just worrying about the boys’ sports. We have tried to build it by getting the best coaches and making all the programs attractive. Every sport is a contender.”

Sixteen of Byrd’s basketball players double as football players, including Anderson, Julien and McGee. Julien and McGee were both first team All-State selection on the hardwood.

They were still toddlers the last time the Rebels played for a football state championship in the early 2000s.

“Coach Byrd put a plan in place to not just win in basketball, but all sports,” Stubbs said. “His plan is starting to come together. Kids want to play for Riverside.”

The Rebels are hoping for a better ending to the 2014 season.

Riverside was upset in the first round of the Division III playoffs last season, losing to No. 9 seed St. Thomas Aquinas.

But that loss wasn’t as surprising as one that occurred just three weeks earlier during the 2013 season.

A week after beating Newman 35-28, Riverside fell to South Plaquemines 12- 8.

“We have got to continue to stay focused,” Stubbs said. “Our primary objective is to not worry about the opponent as much as we worry about ourselves. They are big and strong and are a smashmouth team. We have to get better every week. If you backpedal, it is going to cost you a problem down the road. But we just have to worry about ourselves and get better.”

Scary thought.