Explosive offenses throughout District 1-4A make it difficult for defenses to make headlines or put up impressive numbers.
Minden strives to be the exception and found considerable success a year ago, when it allowed five points per game fewer than any district opponent, posting shutouts against Southwood and Huntington. Coach Spencer Heard expects big things again this season as The Times’ Area Defensive Player of the Year Zikerrion Baker highlights a group of eight returning starters.
“We try to put some of our biggest, most explosive athletes on that side of the ball,” Heard said. “We’ve done that since I’ve been here. I’m really looking forward to watching our defense this year. I think they’re really going to be something special.”
The Crimson Tide made a statement early in 2015, when they stuffed North Webster running back and LSU signee Devin White three times inside the 5-yard line to hold on for a huge 27-20 road win. Baker and fellow linebackers Cameron Morgan and TyChristopher Harris form the backbone of a strong, athletic front seven capable of hanging with just about anyone.
A large, experienced senior class arrived at Minden the same time as Heard, so they share the same pride as their coach when it comes to stopping opponents. Baker said some younger players with raw talent should contribute as well, particularly in the secondary.
They’ll be tested against teams with an effective spread offense like two-time defending 1-4A champions Benton, but part of the challenge for defenses will be the versatility needed to shut down several different attacks. Woodlawn’s Trivenskey Mosley led the city in rushing a year ago, while North DeSoto bring a relentless, powerful ground game featuring multiple backs and a quarterback who can run well.
“You’ve just got to prepare every week because it’s a different challenge,” Baker said. “The more you see the more you know, so Coach just teaches us new stuff every week and (we) get prepared for the new team.”
Added experience plus more size and strength up front means a few more tools at the disposal of the Crimson Tide staff, which must devise game plans to stop some decent offensive talent from Haughton and North Webster before district play begins. But Minden faces a few great athletes every day in practice, led by senior quarterback Antonio Rivette.
The three-year starter can do it all for an offense fully capable of holding its own in high-scoring affairs. Minden beat North DeSoto 43-40 and came within a blocked extra point of forcing overtime in a second-round loss to Franklinton last year.
“We did lose (Louisiana Tech freshman wide receiver) L’Jarius Sneed,” Heard said. “That was a big loss, but we’ve got every other skill guy’s back basically, so we’ve got a lot of experience there, kind of solidifying the offensive line.”
He saw those pieces start to fall into place last Friday in a successful scrimmage against Captain Shreve. When the big men up front create holes, Rivette and Kolby Jackon know how to run through them, while fellow seniors Kelcey Miller and Tavarius Edwards provide proven targets in the passing game.
Still, the Crimson Tide fell short last season in a 41-34 shootout at Benton, and it needed to hold Woodlawn to a regular season-low to hold on for a 20-14 win. If Minden wants to capture a second District 1-4A crown in three years, its defense will need to be the driving force.
9/2 vs. Southwood
9/9 @ Haughton
9/16 vs. North Webster
9/23 @ Fair Park
9/30 @ Huntington
10/7 vs. Benton
10/14 vs. Bossier
10/21 @ Northwood
10/28 vs. North DeSoto
11/4 @ Woodlawn
@ Southwood 17-0 W
vs. Haughton 10-17 L
@ North Webster 27-20 W
vs. Fair Park 35-8 W
vs. Huntington 32-0 W
@ Benton 34-41 L
@ Bossier 35-10 W
vs. Northwood 34-13 W
@ North DeSoto 43-40 W
vs. Wodlawn 20-14 W
vs. Tioga 49-21 W
vs. Franklinton 34-35 L
* – LHSAA 4A playoffs
2015 record: 9-3 (6-1 District 1-4A, 2nd)
Coach: Spencer Heard
Starters returning offense/defense: 8/8
Key Players to watch: DE Zikerrion Baker, QB Antonio Rivette, LB Cameron Morgan
Key Game: @ Benton, 10/7. The two District 1-4A rivals played sensational games in Benton each of the past two years, including a tough 43-36 loss for Minden on a late fumble returned for a touchdown last season. Once again, this one could decide the district title.
Quotable: “This’ll be the first (senior) group that I’ve seen the whole way through, that’s’ been there the whole time and we knew when they came in it was a special group. They were undefeated as freshmen. There’s something to be said for that. They’ve just kind of carried it on through.”