Lane Little didn’t get a say in the matter.
A tear in senior quarterback Garrett Kahmann’s shoulder sealed the junior backup quarterback’s fate — Little is now the Rebels starting quarterback, as Kahmann’s family seeks a second opinion about the reported torn labrum in Kahmann’s shoulder earlier this week.
While West Monroe’s senior quarterback meticulously plans his future and holds off on immediate surgery for the time being, Little was forced to suit up and lead a championship-caliber Rebel team to a 37-7 victory against (0-3) Ridgeway (Tenn.) Friday night. And he did it in style.
“Last year when I played on Friday nights, I was so nervous,” Little said. “The guys were picking me up so much. I was really comfortable tonight. Obviously, we’re heartbroken about Garrett. But he was on the sideline picking me up.”
Little’s night — 2-for-5 for 22 yards — included two touchdown runs (13 and 57 yards). The 57-yard touchdown came with 25 seconds remaining in the first half. As Little broke the pocket and weaved his way through defenders, the thought of sliding to avoid contact never crossed his mind, though it certainly crossed the minds of fans and coaches.
“Before the game Coach (Joey) Adams told me, ‘Get out of bounds or score, and if you don’t score, I’m going to be mad,’” Little said.
On the touchdown run, Little went to pick up a low snap, while West Monroe head coach Jerry Arledge ran down the sideline shouting, “Get down!” Little turned a negative into a positive, as the crowd jumped to its feet as Little made one defender after the next miss on his touchdown run.
“He proved to us last year that he’s a winner, and Coach Adams has done a great job coaching him. He’ll continue to get better,” Arledge said.
And while the quarterback storyline dominated an entire week of Rebel football, it was the Rebels defense that stole the show Friday night.
Ridgeway totaled 177 yards of offense in the loss. The Roadrunners had just 50 yards of total offense in the first half.
Inept special teams and a stout Rebel defense allowed West Monroe’s average field position in the first half to start at Ridgeway’s 43-yard line. So despite totaling only 99 yards in the first half, West Monroe was able to take a 35-0 lead into the locker room.
“Isn’t that something when you can shorten that field down? It makes such a difference,” Arledge said.
The Rebels began the season much like they did a year ago, with a touchdown on the very first play from scrimmage. Instead of Kahmann housing a long touchdown run like he did against John Ehret, it was Derome Williams cutting back and scoring from 20 yards out to put the Rebels up 7-0. The play was set up by a three-and-out by West Monroe’s defense, followed by Ja’dais Richard dropping Ridgeway’s punter short of the sticks after he tried to scramble for the first down.
On Ridgeway’s ensuing possession, Aidan Swanner and Ty Allen recorded sacks on back-to-back plays to get the ball back for the Rebs.
Little’s first completion of the night came on the Rebels’ second drive when he pitched a shovel pass to Cayden Pierce for a 16-yard gain, nearing the red zone. Pierce finished the run strong by running over a Ridgeway defender on the sideline.
“Nothing needed to be said this week (by the veterans),” Pierce said. “We knew what we had to do.”
Little finished off the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run to put West Monroe on top, 14-0.
It only got worse. West Monroe safety Brooks Miller blocked Ridgeway’s punt and Richard recovered at the Roadrunners 7-yard line. Pierce polished off a short drive with a one-yard run to give West Monroe a 21-0 advantage just nine minutes into the game.
Thankfully, West Monroe showed mercy and did not rush Ridgeway’s punter on the following drive. Unfortunately, the Rebels set a wall for A.J. Fenceroy to return the punt approximately 75 yards for the score. The rout was on.
Even when West Monroe’s offense was forced to punt, the Rebels impressed with LSU commit Peyton Todd booming a 57-yard punt, swinging the field position back in favor of the Rebels.
“We might have to look at doing rugby punts in the future,” Arledge said.
Little’s 53-yard touchdown run gave West Monroe a 35-0 lead entering the half.
Ridgeway mounted a promising drive early in the second half, but it was thwarted by a high snap that was recovered by West Monroe’s Joshua Cobbs.
Brock Harvey tackled Ridgeway’s Quintarrius Ayers in the end zone for the safety to add to the Rebels’ lead.
Ridgeway’s lone score came with three minutes to play as Jermiah Lucas completed a 78-yard pass to Demaruas Hunt for the score.
West Monroe totaled 174 yards of offense in the victory.
At 1-0, West Monroe will travel to Shreveport to take on C.E. Byrd in the 2019 Battle on the Border.