By Whitman McGee
The Minden Crimson Tide traveled down to Leesville Friday night for a rematch of their epic quarter-final matchup during last year’s playoffs. The result was different this time; however, as the Wampus Cats prevailed over Minden by a final score of 49-36.
Leesville (3-2) started the contest red-hot with senior running back Caleb Gallashaw scoring a 59-yard rushing touchdown on the very first play of the game. Minden (2-3) then turned the ball over on a bad exchange from center to quarterback. The error eventually led to another Gallashaw score.
This was the third week in a row where Minden found themselves down double digits in the first quarter. Things were starting to look bleak for the Tide. Minden needed a score in a big way.
After a solid Jakobe Jackson return, a score is just what they got, as Cameron Mitchell rushed his way into the end-zone off of a jet-sweep. Carter Barnett’s extra-point attempt was good, and Minden was now only one score away from tying the contest.
Minden forced a Wampus Cat three and out but couldn’t capitalize, having to punt the ball back to Leesville. Isaiah Thornton snagged his third interception of the season and gave the Tide the ball back with 3:25 left in a thrilling first quarter.
A failed screen attempt led to another Minden turnover as Jashawn Lyles picked the ball off and totted the ball to Minden’s five yard line. Leesville got pushed back to the 20 yard line due to a penalty but still scored on Caleb Gillashaw’s third of five total touchdowns on the night.
Minden scored just once in the second quarter on a Jacolby Snell 11-yard rushing touchdown. They went into the half down 14-28.
The Tide started the second half with the ball, and after a string of favorable Andrew Cooper rushes, running back Daylen Robinson marched his way in for the touchdown.
The extra point was blocked but Minden was still within one score, trailing 20-28.
Leesville pulled away by chalking up three consecutive successful trips to the end zone; the Cats led at one point by a score of 49-20.
Minden fought hard until the end though, scoring twice more adding two successful 2-point conversions along with them.
But it was just too little too late for the Tide as even though they outscored the Wampus Cats 22-21 in the second half, the damage was already done.
Minden coach Spencer Heard noted that one of the biggest problems was “spotting them points early,” which the Tide did by committing turnovers.
“It’s a couple of things,” said Heard. “We can’t turn it over offensively and especially not give them scores off of it. The other thing is our defense had a couple of turnovers in the first half that we as an offense didn’t capitalize off of.”
Even after a tough loss, there are still positives to be taken away from this matchup. One of those being quarterback Andrew Cooper completing 11-13 of his passing attempts for 166 yards.
Opening up the passing game is pivotal to Minden’s success and it looks like, slowly but surely, things are improving and this Crimson Tide offense is warming up.
We know the talent is there with guys like Andrew Cooper, Daylen Robinson, Jaylin Williams, and so many more leading the charge. It’s all about consistency and ball control for the Tide. It’s about playing like you’re down while not spotting your opponent those points right off of the bat.
At the end of the day, Heard said he appreciates the effort most of all, telling The Journal, “I thought our guys played extremely hard. I wasn’t disappointed with their effort at all.
Heard continued, “We didn’t play as clean as we needed to play, but I thought the effort was there.”
Next week Minden comes back home as they’ll prepare for their big homecoming game against a well-rested North Desoto Griffins squad.