By 7:49 p.m. West Monroe’s win against West Ouachita was all but official.
Considering West Ouachita’s scoring woes, combined with West Monroe’s stout defensive line play on short yardage plays, a 20-point lead felt insurmountable.
And it proved to be so, as the (6-1, 2-0) Rebels claimed a 34-0 victory against the (5-2, 0-2) Chiefs Friday night.
Inside the victory, West Monroe worked on its passing game, scored two non-offensive touchdowns and matched West Ouachita’s physicality and then some…
“The old saying is there are more ways to score on defense than on offense,” West Monroe head coach Jerry Arledge said.
Bread and Butter
Who ever said you have to run a modern spread offense to be successful in 2019? Clearly West Monroe missed the memo.
One week after attempting just one pass attempt against Alexandria, the Rebels completed two passes on their opening drive against the Chiefs. A 41-yard run from AJ Fenceroy on a reverse pitch highlighted the scoring drive that culminated in a six-yard touchdown run from Cayden Pierce. West Monroe’s senior H-back broke out of the pack and shrugged off a couple of Chiefs en route to the end zone for the early lead.
Though the Rebels threw it more than they did a week ago, West Monroe utilized its run game to create separation from West Monroe. Pierce had another big night for the Rebels with 76 yards and two scores on seven carries.
“He’s a load coming through there,” Arledge said. “He really made a nice cut on that last touchdown. Not only can he run the ball but he’s also a great blocker.”
Pierce ripped off a 28-yard gain on West Monroe’s fourth series of the game. A 13-yard completion from quarterback Lane Little to Fenceroy on third-and-long extended an 11-play drive that resulted in Pierce’s second rushing touchdown of the night. That touchdown run from Pierce gave the Rebels a 20-0 lead midway through the second quarter. The Rebels threatened to score again before the half, but Reid Guirlando’s second interception of the night ended the drive. Guirlando had a fumble recovery in the loss also.
“Let me tell you about Reid Guirlando,” West Ouachita head coach Matt Middleton said. “Every week I’m bragging on him. He’s one of my most solid players I’ve got. He has not played since the eighth grade. He’s come out his senior year, and he’s been my go-to guy. I can do so many different coverages with him because he’s so intelligent.”
Little finished the night completing five-of-nine for 53 yards and two interceptions. West Ouachita turned to the air less frequently than West Monroe. Brendon Crawford completed just 2-of-6 for 30 yards. Brady Ryals replaced Crawford late in the second quarter at quarterback.
West Monroe padded its lead with 11 seconds left in the half when Fenceroy broke a tackle on a punt return, reversed field and hit the sideline for a 75-yard touchdown return, giving the Rebels a 27-0 halftime advantage.
“The most important thing is getting the ball in the hand of the playmaker with a chance to make a play,” Arledge said. “That was a heck of a return.”
West Monroe outgained West Ouachita, 354 yards to 144 in the game.
And West Monroe opened the second half with a 62-yard run from tailback Derome Williams. Williams had 85 rushing yards on four carries.
A quick one-yard run from Major Hendricks allowed the Rebels to lead 34-0 seconds into the third quarter.
Like the Rebels, West Ouachita relied heavily on its rushing attack. Tobias Owens led the Chiefs with 59 yards on 17 carries
Wiggle room was hard to come by for Chiefs running backs, and when there seemed to be a crease, safety Bradley Williams attacked West Ouachita’s rush attack like a heat-seeking missile out of the secondary. And Williams wasn’t the only defender to have a big night for the Rebels…
Not just a punter
Peyton Todd entered the West Ouachita game averaging 40.4 yards per punt. Todd had pinned 12 punts inside the 20-yard line and has become one of West Monroe’s top weapons.
Against West Ouachita, his big leg wasn’t required. But his defensive prowess was.
Todd, who committed to LSU as a 2021 prospect, was encouraged by the Tigers to play defense.
“They wanted me to get used to playing in big moments,” Todd said.
And West Monroe was certainly happy to hear the 6’5”, 210-pound punter showed interest in that side of the ball. After racking up 16 tackles and an interception against ASH, Todd followed that performance by intercepting a Crawford pass and returning it 70 yards for the score.
“The coaches were on the sideline yelling screen,” Todd said. “As soon as I saw him slip out, I just got under it. I was in the right place at the right time I guess. My legs were about to give out. It was a long run.”
Todd helped seal off the edge against an option-based West Ouachita rush attack all night in the Rebel victory.
“I feel like we specialize defending the run,” Todd said. “So we came into this game with the mindset of, we’re going to control the mindset and make them play our game.”
Given this is the third meeting in the history of the two schools, West Ouachita had never scored a single point against the Rebels entering the contest.
Twenty-one years since their last meeting, West Ouachita threatened but never came away with points.
The Chiefs got a break when Guirlando picked off Lane Little on the Rebels’ third offensive series. Guirlando returned the interception inside the Rebels 20-yard line. Hard-fought yardage by Owens and Cole set the Chiefs up with a second-and-one, but the Rebels stuffed the Chiefs on back-to-back plays before forcing an intentional grounding on fourth down to prevent the Chiefs from scoring.
“You don’t come into Rebel Stadium to kick field goals,” Middleton said. “We didn’t come away with any points, but hats off to them. I watched them make two stops against ASH inside the 3 against a good football team. They’re probably the best in the state at stopping the run. They were stuffing us, and that’s why we went play-action over the top.”
It’s been 21 years since West Ouachita and West Monroe played one another, and it’s been a couple of decades since Middleton found himself back in Rebel Stadium for a meaningful game.
Middleton graduated from West Monroe in 1997 and was a member of the 1996 state championship team. Middleton’s father, Eric Middleton, coached the linebackers under head coach Don Shows and was a member of the coaching staff for several state championship clubs.
Next for the Rebels is a matchup against (4-3, 1-1) Ouachita Parish.
Aside from having to slow down Chaunzavia Lewis, who had 815 rushing yards before Ouachita was limited to just 13 points against Ruston, the Rebels offense will look to protect the football against a defense that’s developed a knack for creating turnovers.
Though Carl Glass — the team’s 2018 leader with 147 tackles as a junior — stands out as one of the most accomplished linebackers in North Louisiana, his younger brother, sophomore linebacker Carmycah Glass, recorded a pick six in back-to-back weeks ahead of the matchup with Ruston.
“If I’m being honest, we didn’t think Carmycah was going to be a starter for us this year,” Ouachita head coach Jeff Fitzgerald said. “We knew he was going to be a very good player, but we didn’t know it was going to happen this year. He came along sooner than we thought, and we’re very excited about that. He’s definitely cut from the same mold. Those guys are a tandem for sure.”
Older brother created another turnover in Ouachita’s 31-13 loss to the Bearcats. A strip-and-score gave the Lions their only points of the first half against Ruston.
The Rebels will travel across the river this Friday for another important district contest.