In one of the area’s most anticipated high school games in the last few years, the Lausanne Lynx and Whitehaven Tigers faced off at Rhodes Stadium on Friday. In the big picture, this game has no influence on either team’s championship hopes; they play in different divisions. But it was all about pride.
The Lynx entered the game with a 29-game win streak. Meanwhile, Whitehaven wanted revenge for Lausanne ending their 17-game home winning streak last season. The Lynx wanted to show that the win wasn’t a fluke and wanted the title of the best team in the city. The Tigers were hungry and wanted a shutout, so they can celebrate Donuts Monday.
But the bragging rights go to Lausanne, who scored a 26-23 win in a thrilling overtime game.
Lausanne’s Eric Gray came into the game with something to prove. Last year, he only rushed for 63 yards against Whitehaven, sparking rumors that he could not have a good rushing game against good teams. Gray silenced his critics by rushing for 284 yards and three touchdowns against Whitehaven.
Whitehaven had the early momentum. On the opening drive, Lausanne’s defense forced the Tigers to punt, a Lausanne error allowed the Tigers to regain possession at the Lynx 39-yard line. The Tigers took advantage of the turnover, and senior quarterback Vincent Guy found Kevon Mullins for the 25-yard touchdown to take an early 7-0 lead.
But Lausanne responded with a 74-yard touchdown drive of their own. Senior QB Schyler Forest completed a 43-yard pass to senior WR Jaylon Johnson, but the extra point was wide right, and the Lynx still trailed 7-6. Lausanne scored again to take a 13-7 lead into halftime. Late in the third quarter, Gray ran for a 17-yard touchdown, giving the Lynx a commanding 20-7 lead.
That’s when Whitehaven began to battle back. Junior RB Cameron Sneed put the team on his back, scoring on a four-yard run to narrow the lead to 20-14. After Whitehaven’s defense forced a three-and-out punt, Guy found Sneed on a 60-yard screen pass for a touchdown to tie the game at 20. Senior kicker Mamaduo Anne missed the extra point.
Both teams had a chance to score in regulation. On one play, Forest couldn’t connect with one receiver sprinting down the sideline. On another play, Whitehaven nearly picked off a Lausanne pass with less than 90 seconds to go. And even when Lausanne had a chance to score on first and goal, the Tigers recovered a fumble to send the game to overtime.
High school overtime is similar to collegiate play; each team has the opportunity to start from the 10-yard line. After the Lynx were called for a penalty on Whitehaven’s first 28-yard field goal attempt, a second attempt sailed through the uprights to give the Tigers a 23-20 lead.
On the Lynx’s first overtime possession, they went to Gray. From the two-yard line, Gray skittered around the left edge to seal the 26-23 win for Lausanne.
“Whitehaven has an unbelievable team,” said Lausanne Head Coach Kevin Locastro. “We had them down 20-7 in the fourth quarter and at that point, I thought we had a chance to put them away. They made some big plays. We are really pleased the way our guys played the game.”
Whitehaven coach Rodney Saulsberry wishes he could have that first extra point attempt back.
“I say all the time, special teams are so important,” Saulsberry said. “Our guys have been perfect all year. He just picked the wrong time to miss the first one. It is all about making plays.
“We did not do our best job of making those plays and make sure that we are victorious by executing and getting the job done,” he continued. “I love these kids and the way they played. I love the heart and the passion they played with. I just want them to know that adversity is going to come. If they just fight though it, blessings are going to come.”
On what they can take from this game Saulsberry said, “We are learning to play together. We are learning how to be one team. We are learning how to bond together. I am just proud of these guys. We are going to keep on fighting.”
Whitehaven (3-1) will travel to Little Rock, Arkansas on Sept. 14 to play North Little Rock (2-0). North Little Rock was 13-0 and the 7A Arkansas State Champions last season. Lausanne (3-0) will host Craigmont in hopes of extending their winning ways.