With Christmas vastly approaching, the No. 18 DeRidder Dragons got nearly everything it could have asked for heading into a second round matchup with No. 2 Neville.
Muddy conditions for an offense that likes to eat clock and possessions? Check.
Force a top seed to travel 170 miles to play the Dragons in their house? Check.
Pull off one of the biggest upsets in the playoffs? Well, Santa Clause must have missed that one.
The Tigers overcame sloppy field conditions to beat the Dragons 33-14 on the road. But as the score suggests, it was anything but easy.
The Dragons opened the contest with a 12-play, 80-yard drive that culminated in a K.J. Gooden two-yard touchdown run.
Neville responded immediately. Max Hunter broke loose on the following possession for a 50-yard touchdown run to tie the game, 7-7. The Tigers took their first lead early into the second quarter when A.J. Allen found a crease and dragged multiple Dragon defenders on a 22-yard touchdown run.
Neville assumed control, but a fumble by Hunter later in the quarter set up a three-play, four-yard drive that ended with a Dragon touchdown.
Only one pass was attempted in the first half, as each team relied on the run game in the mud. DeRidder ran twice as many plays as Neville did (32 to 15), but the Tigers went into halftime tied with the Dragons, 14-14.
Out of the break, the Tigers got their passing game on track. Quarterback Andrew Brister completed a 34-yard pass to Derryck Dorsey before connecting with Davis Brown on an eight-yard touchdown pass. After the defense forced a punt, Brister completed seven passes on the Tigers’ next possession, including an 11-yard touchdown pass to Brown. That gave Neville a 27-14 advantage heading into the fourth quarter. Brister completed 10-of-17 passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns in the Tiger victory. Gooden was held to just one completion for two yards in the loss.
Charles Straughter picked Gooden off in the final quarter, drawing him closer to the interception record at Neville. Straughter now needs just two more interceptions to tie Kendrick Marbles’ record.
Hunter found paydirt for the second time later on in the quarter. Hunter’s 14-yard score gave the Tigers a 33-14 commanding lead on the road. Hunter led the Tigers with 126 yards on 15 carries.
The Tigers will host No. 10 Westgate Friday. Westgate is a 9-3 squad with wins against Lafayette Christian Academy and St. Thomas More under its belt. Westgate defeated No. 7 Assumption, 26-7, to advance to the quarterfinals.