Leesville rallies in fourth, makes late stop to beat DeRidder

Published 10:51 am Saturday, October 14, 2023

By Rodrick Anderson

Leesville gave up 15 points in the third quarter, but the Wampus Cats made big plays in the fourth quarter to beat DeRidder 28-22 for the Hooper Trophy on Friday at Cecil Doyle Stadium.

“We didn’t play perfect,” Leesville head coach Robbie Causey said. “We had a lot of unforced mistakes, mental mistakes.

“Special teams, we are still struggling there. The kids responded. I talked to them about that in pregame. You are never going to be anything. You have to go earn it, and you got to rise above every time you get knocked down.”

Down 22-14 after being stopped inside the red zone on their previous drive, the Wampus Cats (4-3, 2-0) got the ball back and scored on their next two possessions. Junior running back Xavier Ford scored both touchdowns, but the biggest was the last with 5:59 left in the game. The Wampus Cats were faced with a 3rd-and-1, but Ford ripped off a 51-yard run and scored the two-point conversion for a six-point lead. Ford ran for 231 yards on 26 carries.

“I got to watch the film on that one,” Causey said. “I didn’t get to see it, but I am happy.

“I was over there trying to figure out how to stop them (DeRidder), and I just heard the crowd and I smiled and said we have to find a stop somewhere. I am happy for the kid. When people think what he is a football player, he is 100 times a better person, and that is what makes him special. He is such a good person.

“The run is a credit to everybody on offense doing what they are supposed to do when they are supposed to do it and at a very adverse time. They (DeRidder) played great defense, and they got after us and made us work for it. It was just a great team win for these kids.”

Then it was the Wampus Cats’ defense’s turn. The Dragons (4-3, 1-1) got a 20-yard kickoff return from Reed Williams to their 40-yard line and went 47 yards in eight plays. They got some help from a horse collar penalty to reach the Wampus Cat 13-yard line, but Leesville stopped Reed behind the line of scrimmage twice and stopped Javaughn Fairley well short of the goal line as time expired.

“Wasn’t that fun? That was exciting,” Causey said. “Everybody got their money’s worth on that one.

“(It is) just the kids responding. These are high school kids, and they make a memory. To have that memory here for this game is special. You look at high school football, this senior class, you are only guaranteed 10 (games). In other sports, you get 25 or 30. They play forever.

“Football, all you are guaranteed is 10, and I tell them to make the most of your 10 you get because you are not guaranteed many. And I was proud of the way our kids responded in the red zone.”

DeRidder came out in the second half strong, holding the ball for the first 7 minutes, 10 seconds. Reed scored the second of his three touchdowns on a 15-yard run on 3rd-and-9, and Kenias St. Romain added the 2-point conversion for the Dragons’ first lead, 15-14.

DeRidder gambled with an onside kick after a 15-yard Leesville penalty, and Ja’Tari Harris recovered it on the Wampus Cat 34-yard line. That turned into a 4-yard touchdown run by Williams and a 22-14 lead, the Dragons’ largest of the game, with 4:50 left in the third quarter.

The Dragons took another gamble late in the third quarter when they went for it on 4th-and-1 from their 20-yard line, but the Wampus Cats made the stop, setting up the first of Ford’s two fourth-quarter touchdowns.

Williams led DeRidder with 84 yards on 17 carries.

Leesville’s Izaiah Farley had seven receptions for 96 yards, including a 48-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that gave the Wampus Cats a 14-7 halftime lead.