Editor’s Note: As we wait for sports to resume locally, we’ll take a look back at the Top 10 high school football games since 2015. Every week will feature a look back at the top games played amongst our parish teams.
No. 8: Ouachita vs. Neville (2019)
Mickey McCarty wore a huge grin before he tilted his head in the direction of this here local reporter and gave a nod.
“You picked the right game tonight,” said the Neville head coach minutes after the Tigers defeated Ouachita, 38-35, last season.
Here’s a little behind the curtain for you — there’s usually a tough decision to make every week about which game to attend. This one was particularly tough because we had two local teams we cover playing against one another, while Sterlington battled Oak Grove in a grudge match. The Panthers and Tigers had more hype entering that week; so most of the local media gravitated toward that clash.
Marq Mitcham covered that contest for us, freeing me up to pay a visit to see the fine folks over there at Ouachita.
And boy did I come away with an unforgettable experience.
The Tigers used a 41-yard last-minute scoring drive to beat Ouachita in a nail-biter.
But, and this was a big but for Ouachita fans, that drive was aided by a controversial call on the previous series.
Let’s go back to that series first. Less than three minutes remained in the contest when Neville led 31-28. Ouachita quarterback Zach Shaw dialed up DJ Jacobs’ number on a 66-yard touchdown pass with 2:13 remaining. The controversy followed when an official threw a flag after Ouachita’s holder ran onto the field. While the Lions celebrated the incredible touchdown pass on the sideline, Ouachita’s holder exited the bench and bumped the official, knocking him down in the process.
A flag flew, as officials deemed Ouachita’s celebration spilled onto the field. You better believe Ouachita head coach Jeff Fitzgerald asked for an explanation on the sideline.
“Sometimes you just have to live without knowing or understanding I guess,” said Fitzgerald immediately following the game. “(The referee) couldn’t explain it except that he threw two penalties on the same guy.”
McCarty elected to take the penalty on the ensuing kickoff, giving his Tigers excellent field position for a final two-minute drive.
“That was somewhat of a gamble on our part, but we felt like we had things in play to go down and score,” McCarty said.
Neville’s game-winning drive covered 41 yards and culminated in a short-yardage score. Neville linebacker Javon Carter had his number called as he was one of the three Neville backs that lined up in the patented “T.” Carter received the handoff with 24 seconds left and bulled his way into the end zone for the score that ultimately gave the Tigers a 38-35 victory.
“It’s hard to stop,” said Carter, grinning ear to ear after a game-winning touchdown in Neville’s “mule train.”
There were so many things about this game that heightened the drama.
For starters, Neville defenders (pass rusher Iken Tankchell and defensive backs Josh Hopkins and Charles Straughter) exited the game with injuries. While Hopkins and Straughter were able to recover from their injuries and play the rest of the season, Tankchell was limited at best the rest of the season. Tankchell’s knee forced him to sit out most of the season, and I have to tell you, after watching him come off the edge against Oak Grove in a preseason scrimmage against Oak Grove, I really felt he was going to have a breakout season. To see Tankchell hobbled was a truly upsetting sight for all involved.
So faced with all of that adversity, Neville had to fight with its back against the wall. And the Tigers did just that. But boy did the Lions take the fight to Neville.
One year after nearly pulling off the upset in Bill Ruple Stadium (Tigers won a 17-14 contest), there were moments in that game where I felt Ouachita was going to finish the job.
Neville entered the fourth quarter with a 24-21 advantage, but a fumble recovered by Ouachita’s Ouachita’s Carmycah Glass set up Chaunzavia Lewis’ fourth touchdown of the night.
That gave Ouachita a 28-24 lead. Lewis was special in that encounter, as he rushed for 159 yards on 32 carries.
“Turnovers killed us tonight,” said McCarty after his Tigers lost three fumbles against the Lions.
Neville quarterback Andrew Brister answered that score with a four-yard touchdown pass to Derryck Dorsey, which set in motion that back-and-forth unforgettable fourth quarter.
I caught up with Brister after the game, and the Northern Colorado signee was brimming with confidence.
“You could see it on our faces that we were ready and determined,” Brister said. “We knew our offense was good enough to bring us back down the field. And our big package, I don’t think anybody can stop us in that.”
The victory over Ouachita marked Neville’s ninth consecutive win over the Lions.
In next week’s edition we’ll unpack one of the biggest upsets to take place in the parish in quite some time…