The tales of Bill Ruple Stadium read like a ghost story for Neville’s postseason opponents.
The only thing spooky about the stadium Friday night was Edna Karr’s scary good offense in a 40-21 Cougar victory. Karr’s semifinal win ended a home playoff win streak that dated back to 2008 for Neville and simultaneously gave Edna Karr a 4-3 edge over the Tigers in seven postseason meetings dating back to 2011.
“The city of Monroe really came out, and our fans came from New Orleans,” Edna Karr head coach Brice Brown said. “What an environment.”
There were no theatrics needed for the opening quarter. As chaotic as Edna Karr’s entrance, the first quarter featured two Cougar turnovers inside Neville’s 5-yard line along with a 21-7 Neville lead.
Karr’s first turnover came on the opening possession, and the Tigers answered with an 89-yard bomb down the field. Quarterback Andrew Brister hooked up with Derryck Dorsey on a post that Dorsey turned up the field and finished in the end zone. The Tigers expanded their lead after a squib kick hit a Cougar player and the Tigers recovered. Immediately Brister turned to the air again, finding Joshua Hopkins on a 45-yard gain before tossing to Max Hunter for the five-yard score.
As frenetic as it sounds, the first quarter was only beginning. Karr quarterback Leonard Kelly and the Cougars showed off their passing game on the ensuing possession. Kelly connected with Destyn Pazon on a 45-yard pass before he followed with a 17-yard touchdown run.
Leading 14-7, Brister found Dorsey on a wheel route for a 73-yard score to give the Tigers a 21-7 first quarter advantage.
“All week we talked about taking that initial blow from Neville,” Brown said. “We knew we had some things schemed up. We were going to come out and make some plays after the kids settled down.”
Brister threw for 235 yards and three scores in the first half, while Dorsey went into halftime with 161 receiving yards on two catches.
The second quarter turned in favor of the Cougars, though the Tigers still had some momentum-altering plays. The Cougars were once again deep in Neville territory when Neville corner Maurion Eleam, who was filling in for an injured Charles Straughter on the series, picked up a fumble at the Neville 3 to give the ball back to the Tigers.
Neville was blanked in the second quarter, though. The Cougars battled back into the game thanks to a Leonte Richardson two-yard touchdown run and 25-yard touchdown pass from Kelly to Darrell Hills. After the passing touchdown with 58 seconds remaining in the half, Javon Carter blocked the kick to keep the Tigers up, 21-20, at half.
The second half was all Cougars. After Brister went 10-of-12 for 235 yards in the first half, he completed just six-of-18 passes for 46 yards and two interceptions. Karr’s Jamie Vance intercepted both passes on crucial drives.
“We just couldn’t sustained keeping the ball away from them,” Neville head coach Mickey McCarty said. “Their playmakers came through in the second half. (Kelly) does such a great job of extending plays with his feet and his arm. Their receivers are good in space. We got a little fatigued in the second half because we stayed on the field so long.”
Karr running back Kevin Marigny scored from 11 yards out to give the Cougars a 26-21 advantage. Kelly scored his third touchdown of the game on the first play of the fourth quarter. His 12-yard pass to Pazon gave Karr a 33-21 edge.
Neville’s defense was still battling, though. Andrew Cagle recorded a tackle for loss and Charles Straughter broke up a pass to force a punting situation on Karr’s next offensive possession, but Neville’s offense couldn’t muster a yard with three straight incompletions on the following series.
Kelly finished the game with 304 passing yards, while Marigny led the team with 135 rushing yards.
Karr outgained Neville 497 to 303 in total yards, and the Cougars’ victory marks the second straight season Karr ended Neville’s season in the semifinals.
Neville finished its season with a 10-3 record.
“We’re proud but not satisfied with it,” McCarty said. “When you get this far, knocking on the Dome door playing for a state championship, it hurts. But we were here playing for it, and there are only four teams doing that. So that’s something to be proud of.”