HAUGHTON Minden showed its strength and veteran leadership in a long, exhausting rivalry game Friday night at Haughton’s Harold E. Harlan Field.
The Crimson Tide defense largely held strong and special teams came up big to snap a six-game losing streak to the Bucs (1-1) with a 23-20 win. Coach Spencer Heard looked ready to breathe a big sigh of relief and senior standout Zikerrion Baker smiled wide, even as two teammates supported him across the field with a sore knee after a late tackle on his game-clinching first down run.
“It’s fantastic, for these seniors, especially,” Heard said. “They’ve worked so hard these four years, stayed with us, stayed together as a group, and they really wanted this win badly.”
Haughton’s defense appeared to wear down in the humidity against a relentless Minden front and multiple running backs. Rivette, the team’s leading rusher from a year ago, hardly even needed to contribute until he found the endzone on a quarterback sneak for the Crimson Tide’s go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The first half belonged primarily to the Minden (2-0) defense, which shut out Southwood a week ago. Haughton needed 10 plays on its opening drive just to get past midfield and wouldn’t score until Nico Broadway’s field goal as the clock expired in the second quarter.
Baker, the reigning All-Area Defensive Player of the Year Zikerrion Baker led the charge with three tackles for loss in the first half, including one hard hit on Curry to force a fumble. The hybrid linebacker and defensive end even added another position when he took his only carry of the game over the left tackle for a 9-yard touchdown following Rodney Johnson’s second-quarter interception.
“We’re going to use him,” Heard said. “He’s a special kid. (Morgan) and (Baker), we put them into that heavy set, and that’s a lot of beef coming at you.”
Haughton’s offense scored all 20 points during one stretch of less than 12 game minutes, largely thanks to an effective deep passing attack. Emile Cola brought in a 51-yard touchdown reception and Josh Lister, one of the state’s best sprinters, caught six passes for a game-high 124 yards.
Heard said Lister forced the Crimson Tide defensive backs to eventually give him some extra room, and Patrick Heard made a pair of sensational plays to knock the ball loose in a great fourth quarter for the secondary. Curry finished with an impressive 236 passing yards, but he completed just 1 of 4 for 1 yard in the final 12 minutes.
Rivette and his teammates still aren’t the type of group likely to win many shootouts once they get into the offense-heavy District 1-4A. But another turnover, this time a forced fumble, plus senior Leonardo McCarter’s 13-yard run on a fake field goal gave the Crimson Tide the boost they needed after Haughton took its only lead of the game at 20-17.
Next week could provide an interesting test against a somewhat depleted North Webster team back in Minden. But the real measuring stick for the Crimson Tide defense will be Oct. 7, when it hosts defending 1-4A champion Benton in what should be another fascinating rivalry game.