Two capable offenses showed off their different strengths in a wild shootout Friday night at North DeSoto.
The Griffins’ diverse and relentless rushing attack opened things up for a respectable passing game, while the best two athletes on the field carried Minden with a steady diet of huge plays. In the end, it came down to special teams as the Crimson Tide held on for a 43-40 road win thanks to two blocked extra points and a two-point conversion.
“Every little thing in a ballgame like this counts,” Minden coach Spencer Heard said. “They’ve got a great special teams group. They got the onside (kick), they put so much pressure on us for all that stuff.”
North DeSoto recovered one onside kick in the third quarter and thought it had another in the fourth to finally get a chance go ahead for the first time in the game. But officials awarded the ball to Minden, and after two false starts L’Jarius Sneed took an end around 71 yards to extend the lead to 36-27.
The speedy senior continued to impress with 165 total yards and three touchdowns, even though North DeSoto coach Scott Abernathy said they made stopping Sneed a top priority. He caught only one pass — a 22-yard touchdown — in the first half and couldn’t make it back to the line of scrimmage on a pair of runs.
But his quarterback, Antonio Rivette forced the Griffins to change their approach with some dynamic plays of his own. Rivette scored from 68 yards out in the first quarter and outran the Griffins’ defense once again for a 50-yard touchdown to open the second half.
“My tackles, my guards, just my o-line overall made good blocks and made the holes open,” said Rivette, who finished with 161 yards rushing, 143 yards passing and five total touchdowns. “All I had to do was run through them.”
North DeSoto’s defense had little chance of stopping Rivette or Sneed when they got into the open field, and Heard said one of his assistants even worried the Crimson Tide were scoring too fast. They ran just 13 plays to the Griffins’ 32 in the first half, 16 of which came on a touchdown drive that took nearly ten minutes.
Abernathy figured his offense could wear down Minden’s defense, and it’s hard to argue with 33 second-half points. Kyler Radford ran for 119 rushing yards to lead a ground attack that got more effective as the game wore on, and he even threw for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
“We did enough to win the game and just came up short,” Abernathy said. “As far as power rankings are concerned it hurts us because we drop a couple spots, but as far as getting ready for good competition in the playoffs it’s good stuff.”
When the PA announcer noted prior to kickoff it would be the last home game for North DeSoto’s 16 seniors, one of Abernathy’s assistants remarked that held true only for the regular season. Minden could also have a shot at hosting a playoff game, depending on how it fares in a tough home test against Woodlawn next week.
The Griffins’ methodical approach and the Crimson Tide’s elite skill players can work against just about anyone in 4A, though Abernathy noted how deep either team could go will depend on matchups. He also stressed the importance of improving on defense, a lesson Minden should take from Friday’s shootout as well.