Tide Advances To Quarterfinals With An Overtime Win Over Leesville
Written by Mark Chreene on December 5, 2020
Spencer Heard has walked the sidelines as Minden’s head coach for 8 seasons. He’s seen memorable games all through those 8 years, but certainly this one has to rank near the top. The 2nd round playoff game between Minden and Leesville on Friday night could easily have been scripted for a movie with the drama that unfolded throughout the game.
After trading three-and-out possessions to open the game, Minden’s defense made the first big play on Leesville’s second possession. Minden’s Alvin White intercepted Jacob Mount’s third down pass at the Minden 40-yardline. Minden then went on a 12 play, 40-yard drive that looked like a sure score for the Tide. However, on his way into the endzone on 2nd and goal from the 2 yard-line, Daylen Robinson fumbled the ball in to the endzone and the Wampus Cats recovered. Minden would hold Leesville on the ensuing possession, but Minden’s offense was unable to get anything going either going three-and-out again. After recovering a fumble a Layne Self fumble at the Leesville 20 yard-line, Minden was once again unable to score in the red zone, turning the ball over on downs at the Leesville 33-yardline.
Leesville would finally find something on offense, going on a 13 play, 67-yard drive finished off by a 17-yard touchdown pass from Jacob Mount to Khrystian Hoffpauir. Trailing 7-0, Minden started at their own 35, looking to answer with a quick score before the half. It looked for a moment that was what would happen after Trenton McLaughlin hit Parker Hall for a 12-yard pass to the Tide 47. However, the next play changed the game. McLaughlin called his own number on a read option and ran up the middle of the field and as he made a cut just into Leesville territory, his knee gave way and McLaughlin was down at the Cats 49-yardline.
Enter Andrew Cooper at quarterback for the Minden Crimson Tide. After a 2-yard loss by Daylen Robinson, Cooper found Justin Richardson for a 22-yard gain to the Leesville 29-yardline. However, with just 5 seconds left, a “Hail Mary” attempt at the end of the first half fell short, intercepted by Leesville to end the first half with the Tide trailing 7-0.
Minden got the ball to start the second half and showed some promise on their first drive, moving the ball from their own 42 to the Leesville 17, but the turnover bug hit again, with Robinson’s second fumble of the game at the Leesville 15-yard line. Leesville would make that turnover pay, with Mount hitting Hoffpauir for 46 yards to the Minden 40. The drive would be aided by two Minden personal foul penalties, setting up at second touchdown pass from Mount to Hoffpauir from 12 yards out and the Tide trailing 14-0 halfway through the 3rd quarter.
Minden and Leesville traded possessions after that score and with 2:59 left on the clock in the 3rd quarter, Minden finally found something on offense. Starting on their own 14, Minden would move the ball out to their own 44. Robinson ripped off a 26-yard run to the Leesville 30 to end the 3rd quarter. A big catch by Austin King on a 4th and 6 to the Leesville 10-yardline kept the drive alive, and the Tide would get their first score of the game 3 plays later with an 8 yard touchdown run by King, with Carter Barnett’s extra point making it 14-7 with 8:11 to go in the game.
After trading possessions, Leesville got the ball back on the Minden 44, with a chance to run out the clock and get the win. However, the Tide defense was up to the occasion, forcing a punt with 2:57 left in the game down to the Minden 5-yardline.
Down 7 points, with the starting quarterback out, less than 3 minutes to go in the game, Minden would go on a drive for the ages. After an incompletion on first down, Cooper hit Parker Hall for a 15-yard gain to the Minden 20. An incomplete pass and false start penalty backed up the Tide to their own 15, but Austin King’s 11-yard run gave the Tide a last gasp fourth down play from their own 27. Cooper’s 4th down pass was incomplete, but a roughing the passer penalty gave the Tide new life at their own 41. Cooper would then find Jaylin Williams for 15 yards to the Leesville 44. Cooper called his own number for 6 yards to the Cats 38, but a facemask penalty moved it to the 23-yardline. After an incompletion and 2-yard loss on a quarterback keeper, Cooper ran again on third down for 16 yards to the Leesville 9. A false start and sack on ensuing plays backed Minden all the way to the Leesville 21-yardline. Minden took their final timeout with 36 seconds left in the game.
Cooper would run 11 yards and get out of bounds at the Leesville 10, but was sacked back to the Cats 20-yardline on the next play. With time running out, and a 4th down and goal play, the Tide rushed to the line to get one last play off before the clock ran out. Cooper dropped back and found Parker Hall in the endzone as time expire for the touchdown, capping off a 16 play, 95-yard drive.
Coach Spencer Heard said that was a stressful sequence. “With the clock running out, it was all that I could do to get the play in.” Heard was proud of the execution in the end. “We had one play for that one chance and two players found a way to make it happen.”
Barnett’s extra point sent the game to overtime. Leesville won the toss and elected to play defense first in the overtime period. Minden would score on the second play of overtime on a 4-yard run by Daylen Robinson and the extra point gave Minden a 21-14 lead.
On Leesville’s possession in overtime, the Tide defense held strong again. After losing a yard on a first down run, Mount completed a pass to Hoffpauir to the 4-yardline. Mount ran on third down for no gain, setting up a fourth and goal from the 4. Mount’s pass would be tipped an intercepted by Austin King, clinching the win for the Tide.
After the game, Head Coach Spencer Heard said that he didn’t know what the status was for starting quarterback, Trenton McLaughlin, but was proud of his team as a whole. “I am very proud of the players and coaches for continuing to battle in the face of tremendous adversity.” Heard said. “There is no quit in this team. They have proven that on multiple occasions this year.” Heard also never worried with Cooper was thrust into the game at quarterback. “We had a special empty package for Andrew this week. When he had to take over, we just ran our normal offense. He has been getting reps all week, so we didn’t have to alter anything.”
Cooper finished the game 11/21 passing for 139 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He also added in 23 yards rushing on 11 carries. Daylen Robinson led the Tide rushing with 17 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown. Parker Hall once again led the Tide receivers with 5 receptions for 60 yards and a touchdown. Austin King had 4 receptions for 43 yards and a touchdown, while Jaylin Williams had 3 catches for 36 yards and Justin Richardson hauled in 3 catches for 29 yards.
The Tide defense was dominant, holding Leesville to just 167 yards of total offense, including just 28 yards in the 4th quarter. Khrystian Hoffpauir was the lone bright spot for Leesville, with 10 catches for 129 yards and both touchdowns for the Cats.
With the win, the Crimson Tide will advance to the quarterfinal round for the third time since 2006, all three being at home. Minden will face Neville in next week’s quarterfinal game, a rematch of the 2006 classic that Minden won 41-34.