Nearly a month away from the final installment of “Star Wars’” Skywalker saga, the No. 2 Neville Tigers sliced through Huntington’s rush defense like a Jedi’s lightsaber would cut through a Stormtrooper.
If you aren’t nerdy enough to get the reference, the old cliché “knife through butter” is equally apropos for describing Neville’s success on the ground in the 56-6 thrashing Thursday night. The Tigers simply faced little to no opposition in the run game. Neville accumulated 306 rushing yards on 33 rushes in the first half to take a 47-6 lead into halftime.
“With a night like that, where it’s cold and windy, it’s just one of those nights you set your jaw and pin those ears back,” Neville head coach Mickey McCarty said. “I thought our offensive line, tight ends and receivers did a good job in the run game.”
The win not only gives Neville yet another district championship, but more importantly, it secures home-field advantage for the Tigers down the road.
At No. 2 in Class 4A, Neville is separated by half a point with No. 1 Lakeshore, who will play at Salmen tonight. Other Friday night games are set to impact the final rankings.
“There are some swing games to be played tonight,” McCarty said. “The Fontainebleau game (vs. St. Paul) is one of them, and Albany vs. (Archbishop) Hannon is another.”
At worst, the Tigers are looking at a No. 2 seed, which would give Neville the opportunity to host a semifinal game before making the trip to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome for the Class 4A title.
“That’s obviously big and why you work so hard to win the games you do in the regular season,” McCarty said. “We’re certainly proud of our players for putting in the work.”
The Tigers entered the second quarter tied, 6-6, with the Raiders before Neville running back Max Hunter took over the game. Hunter averaged 14.5 yards per carry, as he totaled 145 yards and three touchdowns in the first half alone.
On a night where a district title hung in the balance, quarterback Andrew Brister wasn’t going to sit out on the fun. Brister completed 4-of-7 passes for 51 yards and two passing touchdowns.
Hunter got on the board in the first quarter with a 16-yard touchdown run. The Tigers allowed a 23-yard touchdown run later in the quarter before scoring six touchdowns in the second quarter. Hunter scored two more times, AJ Allen scored another and Timothy Byrd broke loose on a 70-yard run. The Tigers had three consecutive one-play scoring drives in the quarter.
“That’s certainly unusual,” McCarty said.
The Tigers scored their final two touchdowns of the quarter within the final 37 seconds. After Brister connected with Jadis Struaghter on a two-yard touchdown pass, Huntington fumbled the ensuing kickoff. With no time remaining, Brister threw a dart to Tanner Staten for a four-yard score to give the Tigers a commanding 47-6 halftime time.
William Reed drilled a 48-yard field goal and Frank Colvin ran in a one-yard score in the fourth quarter to top off the Tigers scoring.
The Class 4A bracket will reveal whether or not the Tigers will be the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the classification Sunday.