Editor’s Note: As we wait for sports to resume locally, we’ll take a look back at the Top 10 high school football games since 2015. Every week will feature a look back at the top games played amongst our parish teams.
No. 2: West Monroe vs. McGill-Toolen (2018)
When it comes to the No. 2 game on our list, we’re talking about the most improbable play many have ever seen or heard about on the high school level.
Speaking for myself here, it's easily the most unbelievable sequence of events I've ever seen. And for those who have spent a little more time on planet earth than yours truly, well, they too would be hard pressed to find a better end to regulation.
It’s that cut and dry as to why this encounter is the second best game we’ve seen in the parish in the last five years.
So let’s work backwards, shall we? Let's go right to the moment.
No other way to put it: West Monroe was a sitting duck in Independence Stadium in Shreveport at the 2018 Battle on the Border. No timeouts left and only one minute remaining, Alabama’s McGill-Toolen needed to take a couple of knees to ice a 24-17 victory against the Rebels.
“That’s what the Rebels would’ve done in that situation,” West Monroe offensive coordinator Glenn Hunt told The Ouachita Citizen after the unforgettable contest.
McGill-Toolen opted for, well, not that. Instead, the Yellowjackets ran a play, handing the ball off on a jet sweep. West Monroe defensive lineman Ethan Swanner got two hands on the ball and ripped. In one smooth motion, the ball flew out of the hands of a McGill-Toolen skill player and into the reaching paws of Rebel defender Colton Harvey. Without hesitation, Harvey accelerated all the way to the end zone to tie the game, 24-24. In a matter of seconds, West Monroe coaches went from taking off their headsets for the inevitable loss to jumping in jubilation on the sidelines.
“You just know that cannot happen,” Hunt said.
From dead to rights to forcing overtime, this game’s conclusion was written in stone. There was no way McGill-Toolen, or any other team for that matter, could recover from fumbling away a sure-handed victory. And yes, the pun was intended.
West Monroe quarterback Garrett Kahmann crossed the goal line on a QB sneak and the Rebels defense kept McGill-Toolen out of the end zone for the improbable 31-24 victory.
“Other than a state championship win, this was the most enjoyable victory I’ve ever been a part of,” Hunt said. “Both teams just played so hard. We saw the kids want that game so much. At West Monroe, people get used to winning a lot. So it becomes expected. But to see the team get excited like that and celebrate a win, it was incredible.”
McGill-Toolen went on to win 10 games that season and finished the season ranked as the 10th best team in Alabama. And in many regards that was to be expected. Going into the contest, West Monroe coaches were preparing for a talented defense that went on to allow just 12.2 points per contest. So as good as West Monroe’s offensive line was, and as talented as Cam Wright was at halfback in 2018, yards were going to be hard to come by on the ground.
Wright led the team in rushing with 85 rushing yards on 25 carries, while Kahmann added 71 yards on 19 carries. Fullback Cayden Pierce scored the first touchdown of the game for the Rebels on a short dive. The score put the Rebels up 10-7 before the half.
A couple of second half interceptions from Kahmann allowed McGill-Toolen to take a lead, but Kahmann redeemed himself by connecting with Michael Hamburg on a long score in the fourth quarter. Hamburg finished with 94 receiving yards on two catches.
While West Monroe’s offense traded blows with McGill-Toolen, West Monroe’s defense stayed stingy.
Malcolm Moore lived in the backfield and finished the night with three sacks for the Rebels. West Monroe had 6.5 sacks on the night with Dontrell Cobb grabbing two and Andrew Gleason corralling 1.5. Brooks Miller had an interception for the Rebels on defense.
The 2018 Rebel defense was one of the top defenses in school history, which is saying something if you know the history of West Monroe football.
The play Swanner and Harvey made collectively at the end of regulation, though, will forever stand as one of the greatest fourth-quarter finishes we’ve ever seen in the high school ranks.
Coming up next week is perhaps the greatest David vs. Goliath showdown this area has ever seen.