WWL's ''Big Chief'' Deke Bellavia and Helen Cox head coach Willie Brooks will have all the action in this championship rematch as the top-seeded Neville Tigers once again go toe-to-toe with the #2 Karr Cougars at 8pm Friday night.
When it comes to the 4A State Championship, it feels like we’ve been here before. One year ago, the Neville Tigers rode a stiff defensive effort all the way to a state title, as they forced five turnovers against hometown favorite Edna Karr High School. They held that Cougar team to a single touchdown on the day and won that game 27-6 to take home their second 4A trophy in three years.
This year, the defending champs are back to try and make it three out of four. All Neville has done in the past year since that victory in the Dome is to keep winning. No one in the regular season posed much of a challenge for Coach Mickey McCarty’s Tigers. Their offense averaged 36 ½ points a game, holding opponents to only 6 ½. The result is that the Tigers are 9-0 and once again champions of district 2-4A.
It was more of the same in the postseason where they were seeded #1 overall. After a 40-10 home rout of #32 St. Louis, Neville hit the road for a battle of Tigers in Breaux Bridge and knocked out the #17 seed 41-21. In the quarterfinals, they returned home for Monroe and sent the Terriers of #8 Vandebilt to obedience school, overwhelming their guests 51-14 to advance once more.
Last week, in the semifinal round, Neville hosted the upset-minded Roneagles from McDonogh 35. Despite their #21 seed, the Roneagles had already taken down two top 5 teams to earn their road trip to Monroe, but they ran into a suffocating Neville defense that kept them off the scoreboard until a meaningless touchdown late in the game. Meanwhile, Neville got a trio of touchdowns from senior tailback Salarrious Jones and roared past the Roneagles 28-8 to earn a trip back to the Superdome and a chance to defend their title against the same team that stood in their way a year ago.
All year long, the Edna Karr Cougars have mirrored Neville at every turn. They averaged 35 points a game on offense and their stingy defense allowed only 6 ½. Like Neville, Karr went 9-0 and easily won the title in New Orleans-based District 9, then found themselves seeded just behind Neville in the playoffs at #2.
In the playoffs, they got little resistance from first-round opponent Peabody, conquering the #31 Warhorses 50-6. From there the Cougars hit the road for Shreveport, where they overcame a slow start against #18 Northwood to shoot down the Falcons 35-14. The Cougars’ road through the 4A bracket would then lead to a pair of Crescent City showdowns.
At Behrman Stadium on the Westbank of the Big Easy, Karr took down a pair of fellow New Orleans football powers. First they slayed the 10th seeded Purple Knights of St. Augustine 28-12. Then last week, they ended the amazing comeback run of District 10 champion Holy Cross. The sixth-seeded Tigers, just 3-7 a year ago, were the feel-good story of the 4A postseason, but couldn’t overcome a back-breaking momentum swing at the end of the first half in their showdown with the Cougars.
Trailing 7-0, Holy Cross drove all the way down to the Cougar 1 yard-line before the Karr defense stood strong and kept the Tigers off the scoreboard. Then, after taking over at their own 3, the Cougar offense drove the length of the field, going 97 yards in 11 plays, capped by quarterback Devante “Speedy” Noil’s second rushing score of the night. Noil would account for three scores on the night, adding a passing touchdown to Glenn Irons, and Karr topped the Tigers 28-16. So after winning District 9 and knocking out the top two teams from District 10, like Rickey Jackson back in the day, the Karr Cougars are “city champs.” But that won’t be enough for Coach Jabbar Juluke’s Cougars, who are making their third straight trip to the 4A title game after coming up empty the previous two.
So will Neville get their 28th straight win and make it back-to-back titles, or will Karr purge the last two years’ worth of bad vibes from the Superdome and finally give their 1993 trophy a long-awaited mate?