MINDEN —For several minutes following Friday night’s final horn at The Pit, Minden quarterback Antonio Rivette didn’t move a muscle. As head coach Spencer Heard spoke with the 2016 Crimson Tide for the final time, No. 10 was emotionless, in complete disbelief his spectacular career had come to a bitter, not-so-storybook end.
A four-year starter, Rivette threw three interceptions – including a pick-6 – in a 34-20 loss to Warren Easton in the third round of the Class 4A playoffs.
An outsider may have believed Rivette, his stone face barely visible through the helmet still on his head, was alone Friday night – just like four years ago, when he moved to Minden from Sugar Land, Texas.
Rivette’s career, and the Tide’s season did end Friday, but the 5-foot-11, 192-pounder was not, and won’t ever be alone. Not in Minden.
“My favorite memory is when I first came down here, the community took me in when I didn’t know anyone,” Rivette recalled.
Four years later, even after a gutting loss, the people of Minden responded immediately.
Teammates and well-wishers approached their leader with hugs and condolences. Still, he didn’t crack, perhaps knowing he’d lose control if wavered.
Rivette was comforted by the support, saying one of the best things about Minden is when “everybody comes together.”
Rivette wasn’t the only senior Heard coached for the final time Friday, but there is no denying he’s different than most.
He finished as Minden’s all-time leader in total offense (more than 6,600 yards) and total touchdowns (85). He wound up second in school history in passing yards, third in passing touchdowns (50) and sixth in rushing yards (and added 35 career rushing scores).
The Tide won 31 games, including a 9-0 start this season, and lost 15 since Rivette’s arrival.
Perhaps more telling than the record book is the fact Heard didn’t mention a single statistic when asked to summarize Rivette’s career and his impact on the community.
“He’s a fantastic kid,” Heard said. “He’s set such a good example for the kids in how he carries himself and handles his business every day. He’s good in the classroom, a hard worker in the weight room and out on the field. I’m really proud of him. His family has done a great job raising him.”
The Class of 2017 is special to Heard. It marked his first four-year class as coach of the Crimson Tide.
“They set a great example,” Heard said.
Minden never recovered from a nightmarish start Friday. Eagles linebacker Khyran Givens intercepted Rivette’s first pass and carried the ball deep into Tide territory. One play later, Joseph Edwards found Nicholas Bartholomew for a 22-yard touchdown.
Rivette’s 61-yard, second-quarter touchdown pass to Patrick Heard helped Minden cut the deficit to one score (12-6), but Warren Easton countered on its next possession. Another Rivette scoring pass narrowed the gap to a single score (18-12) in the third quarter, but, again, the Eagles extended their lead quickly.
A 43-yard interception return for a touchdown by Damien Tate Jr. sealed the fate of Minden and Rivette’s career in the fourth quarter.
Friday night, the scoreboard said Minden suffered a loss. The stats say Rivette didn’t perform up to the standard he’d set for four years. However, kids like Rivette will pay off for years to come – in the form of victories on the field and off.
“It’s part of why (coaches) do this,” Heard said. “It’s not just X’s and O’s. You try to mold them into young men, productive citizens and good fathers.
“Antonio will be all of that.”
And Minden will always hold a special place in the heart of No. 10.
“Once a Tide, always a Tide,” Rivette said.