Neville ended Ruston’s two-game win streak over the Tigers in a 21-20 victory Friday night in Bill Ruple Stadium. The Tigers nearly handed the Bearcats the victory with a costly special team blunder and four first-half interceptions, but a strong second-half effort paved the way for victory.
Neville head coach Mickey McCarty praised his team’s resiliency in a 17-13 jamboree victory against West Monroe last weekend, and in the season opener against Neville, the Tigers showed their guts again Friday night.
Whether it was rust from rehabbing a leg injury this offseason or Ruston’s ability to force unwarranted throws, Neville quarterback Andrew Brister struggled to settle into the game with four interceptions.
Neville’s defense had his back, though. Ironically, the first score of the night came on a pick-six by Neville’s Hinton Roberts.
Two second quarter scores for Ruston — a three-yard run by Deontre Griffin and nine-yard pass from Jaden Procell to Devian Wilson — gave the Bearcats a 13-7 lead at the half. The second score was set up by a snap that went over William Reed’s head and placed Ruston inside Neville’s 10-yard line.
Neville wasn’t going anywhere, though. Brister connected with running back Max Hunter for five-yard score and Reed’s extra point put the Tigers on top, 14-13.
Shortly after, a coverage breakdown allowed Ruston to answer with a 77-yard touchdown pass from Procell to Cam Crowe in the seesaw battle.
Ruston head coach Jerrod Baugh was 2-0 against Neville heading into the Tigers’ 1,000th football game, and he was on the verge of going 3-0 in the fourth quarter before the Tigers turned the tide on defense.
A gang of Neville tacklers forced a Ruston fumble and Andrew Cagle scooped up the ball and returned it 36 yards for the game-winning score.
Josh Hopkins ensured Neville's victory with a game-sealing interception late in the fourth quarter.
Brister finished the night completing 11-of-19 for 121 yards, a score and four interceptions, while Hunter led the Tigers on the ground with 72 yards on 18 carries. Zeb ruddell caught four passes for 65 yards for the Tigers.
Neville outgained Ruston 326 yards to 240.
At 1-0, the Tigers will host (1-0) University High Friday night.