You can call them the Cardiac Kids. The Young Guns. The Laid Back lettermen.
Pick a cliche. It probably applies.
After Thursday night, though, you also must call the Rummel Raiders the 2013 Division I state champions.
Rummel earned its second title in as many seasons with its latest wacky ride, this time a 23-22 win against C.E. Byrd at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, defying the notion of a playoff hangover one season after a slightly different group of lettermen earned the school’s first state championship.
“I think we gave everybody their money’s worth tonight,” Rummel coach Jay Roth joked afterward.
“I never did feel like we had a grasp on it until the clock ran out.”
Like so many games this season, the Raiders (10-3) did not dominate, and actually struggled early to stay competitive against Byrd (11-2) and its option offense.
Quarterback Chase Fourcade earned MVP honors by competing 11 of 16 passes for 219 yards. Just as important, he recovered from a second-quarter interception returned for a score by Byrd’s Kirkland McCulloch.
“We had ups and downs, but the chemistry of the team brought us together,” Fourcade said.
Steven Dunbar, Fourcade’s favorite target, had six catches for 144 yards. Ivan Phipps rushed for 102 yards, and Keith Fulton added 66 yards and one score.
Like so many games this season, they found a way, even if it took the ire of Roth at halftime.
Rummel won because of its adjustments, mainly on defense against the Byrd pitch.
Dominic Haggerty rushed for 105 yards against Rummel in the first half. Haggerty finished with 96 yards.
He scored the game’s first touchdown, a 73-yard run early in the first quarter — three plays into the title game.
Then the Raiders, after allowing 142 rushing yards in the first half, held Byrd to 39 yards in the final two quarters, a blow to the Yellow Jackets’ run-first offense.
Meanwhile, Fourcade’s 86-yard touchdown pass to Dunbar on the second play from scrimmage in the third quarter trimmed the halftime deficit to three.
After trading fourth-down attempts late, Rummel made the championship plays. Phipps took advantage of a Byrd fumble, recovered by teammate Michael Mosley, scoring on a 22-yard run with 8:03 left.
The Raiders then stopped Byrd on third downs on its next to possessions, both plays made by sophomore cornerback Kristian Futlon. First when he deflected a Tyler Howard pass with less than six minutes left, leading to a punt. On the second, he tackled Haggerty for a 3-yard loss, setting up Byrd’s fourth down.
“In the first half, our safety was supposed to take the pitch,” Fulton said. “But he was getting block. In the second half, I had to set the edge for the pitch.”
On fourth down, Byrd was penalized for illegal touching when offensive lineman Ryan Downey caught a pass from Howard. Byrd’s best drive had ended.
Rummel sealed the win minutes later as Tyrell Jacobs sacked Howard, allowing the scoreboard to expire.