On a night where West Monroe’s scoreboard failed to power on, the Rebels offensive line put on a display of raw, natural power in the trenches to generate another West Monroe playoff victory.
When No. 2 West Monroe met No. 15 Captain Shreve in the second round for the second straight season Thursday night, the Gators flipped the script. For three quarters, the Gators fought tooth and nail with the Rebels, but in a war of attrition, West Monroe’s offensive line paved the way to victory with 421 rushing yards.
Unlike (11-1) West Monroe’s 43-0 shutout a season ago, the (9-3) Gators provided some early resistance the Rebels ultimately overcame in a 38-21 victory.
And with hundreds of students missing school this week due to flu-like symptoms, multiple West Monroe starters were missing in action, including two Rebel starting defensive tackles.
“A couple of other kids played that were still not over the flu including the quarterback (Lane Little), (Case) Roark, (AJ) Fenceroy, and others,” West Monroe head coach Jerry Arledge said. “Who all did we play on that defensive line tonight? A lot of them have only played (junior varsity). And they played well. Next man up.”
Entering the second round matchup, Captain Shreve had outscored its opponents 215-55 in the first half. On average, the Gators were outscoring opponents by 14 points in the first two quarters.
That’s what happens when 19 of 22 starters are seniors.
But that didn’t seem to matter Thursday night. After receiving the opening kickoff, the Rebels went old school. West Monroe’s offensive line engineered a 13-play, 80-yard scoring drive that culminated in a one-yard touchdown run by Little. Captain Shreve was mauled in the trenches, as Rebel running back Derome Williams rushed for 53 yards on seven carries on the drive.
Ethan Boyer, who has started since he was a freshman on the offensive line, said it was time for the unit to carry the team.
“I thought we were better this year than we were last year,” Boyer said. “We only lost one player off of last year’s (offensive line). Our whole offensive line loves to run the football.”
Boyer and his teammates up front entered this contest with a chip on their shoulder. That’s because word got around about a local radio interview Thursday morning that involved Shreve coach Bryant Sepulvado. The Gators head coach suggested the Rebels offensive line wasn’t as good as 2018’s unit on Sports Talk 977’s The Morning Drive with Aaron Dietrich and Jake Martin. And West Monroe coaches were happy to relay the message to their team.
“It’s the same guys,” West Monroe offensive coordinator Glenn Hunt said. “That ticked me off, and I think it ticked our guys off. We were highly motivated. I’m old school. You don’t fear anybody, but you respect them all. And we just felt a little disrespected.”
The Rebels climbed to a 14-7 lead in the second quarter after Williams broke loose on a 91-yard touchdown. Williams rushed for 154 yards in the first half alone.
Challenged in the Trenches
West Monroe’s defense wasn’t the only unit that entered the contest with a lofty reputation. The Gators defense allowed just 12 points per game and had nine defensive touchdowns this season. That’s the main reason why Captain Shreve built a 9-2 record ahead of Thursday night’s showdown.
But as West Monroe fans know, the Rebels defense is one of the best in the state (allowing 5.7 points per contest in 2019).
The Rebels got to prove their worth on Captain Shreve’s first possession. After West Monroe went up 7-0, the Gators faced a 4th-and-1 on West Monroe’s 21-yard line. The Gators dropped back to pass, and the Rebels forced an incompletion, turning the ball back over to the Rebels.
That didn’t discourage the Gators, who approached the red zone again on their very next drive thanks to a 15-yard late hit personal foul against the Rebels. West Monroe committed nine penalties for 105 yards in the contest, which is something West Monroe coaches said needed to be cleaned up.
The Rebels forced another fourth down scenario, but busted coverage on the backend allowed Gator quarterback Darrius Grant to connect with a wide-open Kendrick Law for the 26-yard score, tying the game 7-7.
Shreve’s opening drive of the second half resulted in a 60-yard touchdown pass from Grant to Zaquis Rogers, which knotted the Gators and Rebels at 14-14.
The Rebels came marching right back. Facing a 3rd-and-3 from their own 29-yard line, Williams cut right before cutting back left at the second level on a 53-yard run. That play set the table for an eventual one-yard score from Pierce, allowing the Rebels to take another seven-point lead.
After West Monroe forced a three-and-out, Shreve shanked a punt that actually didn’t even get back to the line of scrimmage. Thus, the Rebels started their next drive at Captain Shreve’s 29-yard line, and ultimately capitalized on the gift with Kade Pittard’s 30-yard field goal.
Shreve’s collapse continued on the ensuing drive. After Grant got pressure in the backfield on third-and-long, he heaved up a prayer, which fell into the hands of Rebel safety Brooks Miller for the interception. Four plays later Williams scored on a 20-yard run, making it 31-14 Rebels early into the fourth quarter. Williams finished his night with 241 yards on 16 carries.
“He’s probably 165 (pounds), but he runs it extremely hard,” Arledge said. “He’s like a dried up piece of shoe leather. He is so tough.”
Shreve didn’t go gently into the night. A 56-yard completion from Grant to Law on the ensuing possession called on West Monroe’s offensive line to finish what it started. The push up front created creases for Pierce to burst through with hard-fought runs, and he finished off the drive with his second rushing touchdown of the game. Pierce totaled 127 yards on 24 carries.
“No doubt this was the best performance by our offensive line,” Hunt said. “I sensed something on Monday at practice. Ethan Boyer, you could see a little bit of difference in him. I thought he played his butt off.”
Defensively, West Monroe held Captain Shreve to just 220 total yards. Dontrell Cobbs made multiple tackles in the backfield for the Rebels, and Arledge said he made some of the biggest plays of the night defensively.
Gators running back DJ Fleming needed 119 rushing yards to become Shreve’s all-time leader, but the Rebels limited him to just 53 yards on 13 carries.
After the Rebels improved to 41-4 at home in the postseason, the Rebels will have to hit the road for the quarterfinals next week. Because No. 23 Covington upset No. 10 Sam Houston in the first round, No. 7 Destrehan has to travel to play Covington Friday night. Because West Monroe hosted the first two rounds, the Rebels will be on the road regardless of who wins between Destrehan and Covington.