“Dean Smith wrote a check his team couldn’t cash.”
Carroll head coach Jackie Hamilton dropped the metaphorical hammer after his team defeated Wossman, 33-20, on Oct. 28, 2016. Adrenaline pumping, he targeted Smith after Wossman’s head coach talked fans across the parish into the stands for a bitter rivalry, and to this day, it’s my favorite postgame interview I’ve ever conducted on the field. The irony here is Hamilton left Carroll and joined Wossman’s staff just a couple of years later.
When tasked to think back on some of the greatest games I’ve witnessed in Ouachita Parish, what immediately comes to mind are improbable victories, giant tales of underdogs proving everyone wrong and rivalries intensifying with playoff implications on the line.
As fun as the latter is, those were the games that struggled to make my Top 10 games I’ve covered since I joined The Ouachita Citizen in 2015. And with that said, here are the 10 games that just barely missed the cut:
Carroll vs. Wossman (Oct. 28, 2016)
Ali’s “Bang Bang, Wossman gang” echoed throughout Grady Jones Memorial Stadium an hour before kickoff, and the lyrics were loud and clear.
“Carroll ain’t no rival. Man, that’s a straight up blowout.” Those lyrics served as the latest shot in a war of words conducted throughout the week between Hamilton and Jones, who each joined The Ouachita Citizen’s podcast two days prior to the matchup to further hype up the district clash.
What followed the pregame festivities was anything but a blowout. Wossman led 14-13 at the end of the third quarter, but Carroll quarterback Odirrius Sellers took over in the fourth.
After already connecting with running back Fantoryian Pendleton on a touchdown pass earlier in the contest, Sellers avoided tacklers in the backfield before connecting with Pendleton for another score.
I’ll never forget Sellers running over to Wossman’s sideline and taunting players and coaches after the score.
“I told them that we were the better team,” Sellers said after the game. “They’ve talked all week about how they were better. I had to let them know.”
Though the fourth quarter was all Carroll in the 33-20 victory, it’s hard to discount the emotions before, during and after that district matchup. I caught up with Carroll defensive back Jerry Brown, who intercepted Wossman quarterback Zach Smith earlier in the contest, after the victory and he was all smiles.
“I love it, I love it,” Brown said. “After we took the Richwood loss, this game meant everything to us. Coach Dean was talking about, ‘We’re going to do this and that to Carroll,’ but we knew we were the better team. We knew we were going to win this ballgame.”
Sterlington vs. Wossman (43-34 Sterlington win, Oct. 12, 2018)
Wossman vs. Union (50-45 Union victory, Nov. 2, 2018)
West Ouachita vs. Pineville (17-10 West Ouachita win, Oct. 25, 2019)
The most recent contest on this list was an important one for Matt Middleton and what he and his coaches are building at West Ouachita.
After a two-win season in 2018, the Chiefs defeated Pineville, 17-10, to earn six victories in a season for the first time since 2015. The win also ensured the Chiefs would get into the playoffs.
“I’m geeked,” said Middleton after the game. “It was pins and needles all week. But the kids got after it and believed. Six wins is huge. I’m fired up.”
The Chiefs did it in typical West Ouachita fashion during a constant downpour. Tobias Owens led the Chiefs with 106 yards on 20 carries, while Kohl Nolan rushed for 70 yards on 14 carries.
Late in the contest, the defense held as Pineville entered WO territory in hopes of tying the contest. After a fourth down stop, West Ouachita’s sideline erupted, knowing victory would soon follow.
West Monroe vs. Zachary (29-27 Zachary victory, Dec. 1, 2017)
West Monroe vs. Ruston (21-14, West Monroe win, Nov. 8, 2019)
West Monroe vs. Ouachita (14-13 West Monroe victory, Oct. 26, 2017
The circumstances surrounding this contest were unique from the jump.
The contest moved to Thursday night to avoid inclement weather and Ouachita had a new starting linebacker that would soon make a name for himself in the parish. His name, of course, was Carl Glass.
Glass was coming off of a performance against Ruston, where Ouachita head coach Jeff Fitzgerald estimated Glass was in on just about every tackle in the fourth quarter.
“It was like, ‘Who is this guy?’ The next week he led the team in tackles again and I think he tackled (West Monroe quarterback) Slade Bolden like 20-something times,” Fitzgerald recalled last summer. “The reason he blew up (in 2018) is really only because he didn’t play more his sophomore year.”
Glass led a stingy Ouachita defense amid an absolute dogfight that West Monroe won 14-13. The Lions needed one last stop in the final minutes, though.
Facing a 3rd-and-10 at midfield with less than three minutes to play, veteran quarterback Slade Bolden would have his number called.
The play prior, Bolden took a hard lick on the sideline and struggled to get to his feet.
“Suck it up,” an assistant coach hollered. “You want to be the man. Go out and be the man.”
After a deep breath, Bolden took the snap, made a cut past a defender, hit a burst and stiff-armed a Lion defender to gain a first down.
The Rebels were able to run out the clock following the hard-fought first down to polish off another classic victory in Rebel Stadium.
Neville vs. McDonogh 35 (14-13 Neville win, Nov. 17, 2017)
Of all the great Neville victories that have taken place in Bill Ruple Stadium over the years, Neville’s 14-13 win against an extremely talented McDonogh 35 ranks high on the list of thrilling victories.
On paper, football enthusiasts favored Neville because of its winning tradition and homefield advantage, but it took only one glance at the field during pregame to realize the Tigers might actually be the underdog.
Before the game, Mickey McCarty told his team to find a way to get one more point that their opponent, and little did he know, his team would take him quite literally.
Neville trailed 13-7 at halftime before star pass rusher La’Kamion Franklin would make a pivotal play for the Tigers. At the start of the fourth quarter, Roneagle quarterback Lejohn Howard leapt for a snap that went high above his head.
Franklin recovered the fumble for Neville at the 14-yard line, and four plays later, Neville quarterback Jordan Thomas punched it in for the score.
Neville escaped with the 14-13 playoff victory despite recording less than 200 total yards in the contest.
“We talked to our guys at halftime and told them that we thought we were in better shape than that team over there,” said McCarty after the game. “Keep fighting and in the fourth quarter, it would pay off for us. I thought we had more juice in the fourth quarter. We were able to get after their quarterback. Hats off to our defense. Tough, tough opponent.”
Neville vs. Ruston (21-20 Neville win, Sept. 6, 2019)
Sterlington vs. Ferriday (55-52 Sterlington victory, Oct. 23, 2015)
OCS vs. Sterlington (22-20 Sterlington win, Sept. 7, 2018)
Sterlington vs. Richwood (28-21 Sterlington win, Nov. 2, 2017)
Sterlington vs. Richwood (15-14 Richwood win, Nov. 24, 2017)
The rematch we were salivating for certainly didn’t disappoint.
After an intense back-and-forth district championship game and a month’s worth of trash talk among fans, players and coaches for a hopeful rematch in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A playoffs, Richwood edged Sterlington in yet another defensive classic.
Sterlington had an opportunity to take the lead in the third quarter but missed a 24-yard field goal. That was the closest the Panthers would get to knocking off the Rams the rest of the way, as Richwood’s defense put the clamps on Sterlington’s patented ground attack.
"We knew if we didn't hurt ourselves, we'd have a great shot," former Richwood head coach Robert Arvie said following the game.
These young men believe in each other. That's what it takes in games like this. They have hit their stride over these last few weeks."
Richwood’s upset victory was followed by a win against No. 5 Kaplan to earn a state championship game berth. It also snapped a 21-game win streak for Sterlington.
Next week, we will dive into the Top 10 games since 2015. And we’ll kick it off in fashion with a dramatic finish between two district rivals…