This matchup features a team that has become a mainstay in the 4A championship, in the midst of a rare run of success, against a newcomer to the title scene.
One of the most successful teams in Louisiana football since 2010 is the Edna Karr Cougars. After two straight years of advancing to the Superdome but coming up just short of a state title, the Cougars broke through last year to beat Neville for their second state title in school history, so they came into the 2013 in the unfamiliar role of king of the mountain but they weathered it well.
They played a very strong schedule in 2013, opening the year with wins over St. Paul and St. Aug before suffering their only loss of the season at the hands of John Curtis in a game they led with less than a minute to play. They kicked off district play with their toughest rival Landry-Walker and earned a hard-fought 26-22 win. They closed the season out with a 21-point win over a much improved Warren Easton team, and entered the playoffs as the 2 seed.
Their offense looked nearly unstoppable at times this year, particularly in the playoffs. They handily defeated #31 Salmen 53-7 and #15 Crowley 55-6. In the quarterfinal round, they shut out #7 Franklinton 26-0, setting up a rematch with the Charging Buccaneers of Landry/Walker. The newly consolidated school on the Westbank made no bones about it leading up to the game. They felt they had given the regular season showdown to Karr and were determined to rectify that in the playoffs, but the Cougars quickly shut that notion down.
Karr jumped on top of the 4A bracket’s #3 seed thanks to a pair of two-touchdown performances from Speedy Noil and Jaevon Walton. Their defense stood tall as well, impressively blanking the Charging Buccaneers. In the playoffs, the Cougars have given up a total of 13 points in four games for an average of just over 3 points a game, so they’re looking very strong heading into the title game, but if we’re going to talk defense, we need to give serious love to their opponent.
East Jefferson indeed looked strong coming into the season, but that had been the story many times for the Warriors, and it never amounted to anything. EJ hadn’t won a playoff game since 1970 including last year, when as a 12-seed they were upset by #21 McDonogh 35. Still, no one could deny that the Warriors were a contender in 2013. This season, the Warriors outscored their opponents 456-32. The Warrior defense posted seven shutouts in the 10-game season, and only once allowed a team to score more than a touchdown. And one thing that just about always holds true in the playoffs is that defense travels.
After going unbeaten, the Warriors got the #4 seed but could they overcome 43 years of playoff futility. The answer was a resounding yes. They started by recording an eighth shutout, blanking the team that upset them a year ago, #29 seed McDonogh 35 24-0. From there, they traveled to Stonewall, Louisiana and took down #20 North DeSoto 44-6, setting up a showdown between two of the New Orleans-area’s best teams. East Jefferson hosted #5 Warren Easton, and the Eagles became the first team to reach 20 points against the Warrior D, but East Jefferson’s offense proved too strong for Easton and E.J. moved on with a 35-26 win into the semifinals, where they would face one of the best teams in the state year-in and year-out.
The Neville Tigers had been in the state championship game in three of the past four years and, like East Jefferson, were unbeaten in 2013. But after three straight home games, top-seed Neville was forced to travel to Metairie and play in front of a raucous crowd at Joe Yenni Stadium.
Only two touchdowns were scored in the first half. Neville got on the board first on its second play from scrimmage as Kavonte Turpin broke through the Warrior line and ran 69 yards to paydirt. After the two-point conversion was successful, the Tigers led 8-0. East Jefferson cut into the lead on a 10-play drive that went 77 yards, highlighted by a 40-yard run by Eugene Wells. Then, with EJ’s only pass of the game, Wells found Ronald Green in the endzone, pulling to within one point, 8-7.
The defenses stepped into the spotlight from there, and the game remained 8-7 into the third quarter, when it looked like Neville might have finally taken control. Andre Fuller III went around the left side after faking a handoff and scored on a 38-yard run, giving Neville a 15-7 edge. But with 5 ½ minutes to play, it was the Warriors pulling even after a second Ronald Green touchdown on a 7-yard run, followed by a crucial two-point conversion by Wells. With the score tied at 15, the Warrior D asserted themselves and got the ball back for their offense with a third-down sack of Neville quarterback Edgar Jackson.
East Jefferson got the ball after the punt at the Neville 42, and with two seconds left, Isaac Espinoza nailed the game-winning 17-yard field goal that sent the home crowd into hysterics. With the 18-15 victory, East Jefferson knocked off 4A’s #1 seed and earned the right to play for its first state title.
So will it be the Cougars making themselves at home in the Superdome once again this year, or will a new face take their place at the head of the table?
It’s the #2 Edna Karr Cougars vs. the #4 East Jefferson Warriors for the 4A state championship, and that's what you need to know.