If you’re a Riverside Academy football fan, there was nothing pretty about the first meeting this season between the Rebels and the John Curtis Patriots.
Less than two months ago, the Riverside Rebels travelled to Muss Bertolino Stadium in Kenner for the regular-season matchup against the state’s Class 2A Goliath and came away with a 59-0 loss and an 0-4 record.
But if you’re Riverside Academy coach Bill Stubbs, there was a lot that was pretty about that loss.
“The score didn’t indicate it, but we saw a lot of positives in that game,” Stubbs said. “The biggest was, (we) were not intimidated when we went over there. Our team stood up and played them.”
But, according to just about everyone who has watched them, the Rebels that will return to that stadium Friday night for a rematch in the Class 2A quarterfinals are not even close to the same team that went the first time. That Riverside team had a new scheme, a new quarterback and a new coach in Stubbs, who had been lured out of a 10-year retirement to take on the team and get it going.
This Riverside team is riding a four-game winning streak, the past two against top 10 seeds in the Class 2A bracket. Riverside knocked off No. 8 Homer 56-8 in the bidistrict round, then No. 9 Episcopal 28-22 in last week’s regional, scoring the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds.
Stubbs said it was just a matter of time for the Rebels. And trust.
“Once the kids understood the concepts, they had to understand that each kid has a responsibility,” Stubbs said. “Then they came to trust each other to do what they were supposed to do.”
The biggest example of that, Stubbs said, is seen in freshman quarterback Deuce Wallace, the Tennessee transfer and nephew of head boys basketball coach, athletic director and River Parishes legend Timmy Byrd.
In the first game, Wallace was 12 of 26 for 67 yards with three interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. Riverside finished with 112 yards.
Last week, Wallace was 19 of 34 for 281 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. He now has more than 2,500 yards and more than 30 touchdowns on the season.
“His has been the most amazing turnaround,” Stubbs said. “He just needed to trust in his receivers to catch the ball. That and he got his timing down. We knew he had it in him. He’s not just flapping his wings. What’s special about him is his ability to compete. He gives everything he has. He’ll lose both his arms and both his legs just to compete.”
“I just got a lot more confident,” Wallace said. “Everyone did. We just all came together and did what we were supposed to do.”
And that is what the Rebels hope to do Friday when they take on No. 1 seed and No. 1-ranked Curtis, the winner of 24 state championships.
“Goliath Squared,” Stubbs said.
But there are some along the river who say this is precisely what Stubbs was brought here to do: slay the giant. Stubbs is 3-3 against Curtis, including a victory in the 1995 Class 4A title game.
“That is so far off the realm of what I was brought here to do,” Stubbs said. “I was brought here to get it jump-started, get it rolling. As far as Curtis goes, what do you say? What can you say that hasn’t been said already? They could be the New England Patriots. Same colors. We have to focus on what we’re doing.”
“We’re a totally different team from when we went over there the first time in Week 4,” Wallace said. “So we know the outcome will be different. We’re confident we can give them a run.”
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