Hollywood loves the storyline. Chances are you love it too. Although, one can admit it’s become a little tired after it’s been portrayed on the big screen time and time again.
You’ve seen it… The team’s best player is hurt and can’t contribute to a meaningful playoff game only to take matters into his own hand and suit up to join the team. Sound familiar? One might’ve rolled their eyes at this trendy plot cliché on a channel like Hallmark, but Tiger players, coaches and fans had a different reaction when 5-star offensive tackle Will Campbell emerged in full gear after multiple offensive series went awry.
“I didn’t even know he was getting dressed,” said Neville head coach Jeff Tannehill, who thought his star player was still wearing street clothes on the sidelines. “I think we were down 8-6 when he popped out of the end zone dressed out. He said he wasn’t going to let us go down without him trying to play. He was about 60% last night and just willed his way through the second half. Can’t ask for nothing more as far as leadership goes. It gave us a spark.”
Campbell was not slated to play, as he was nursing a groin injury. But the LSU commit helped the No. 2 Tigers rally to beat No. 18 Carencro, 19-15, on the same field Neville was eliminated from in the playoffs one short year ago. He approached Tannehill on the sideline and said, "I'm going in." Tannehill had him checked out again at halftime before inserting Campbell into the ballgame.
Revenge is sweet for Neville but surviving and advancing in the Class 4A bracket is even sweeter.
“It was a very physical football game,” Tannehill said. “You know Ruston kicked a field goal on the last play of the game to beat them earlier this year, and even though (Carencro) had some guys injured this year, their offensive and defensive lines were the same. So we knew physically it was going to be a tough game.”
The Tigers held Carencro to just 162 yards of offense, but Neville trailed for the majority of the contest.
Joseph Granger scored on a five-yard rush followed by a two-point conversion to put the Bears up, 8-0, in the first quarter at home. Neville’s “Mr. Quick Six” Anthony Allen Jr. broke loose on a 75-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to draw the Tigers within two points. Neville struck back in the third quarter and took its first lead of the game with a six-yard rush from Allen. Neville’s star running back rushed for 188 yards and two touchdowns in the win.
Carencro regained the upper hand in the fourth quarter when Kennon Ryan rushed for a one-yard touchdown to make it a 15-12 Bears lead.
But Neville answered. As Carencro defenders keyed in on Allen in the fourth quarter, quarterback Brett Batteford pulled the ball on a zone read and ran 70 yards to put the Tigers up, 19-15.
“We ran inside zone quite a bit,” Tannehill said. “A.J. popped two long runs, and then Brett ran that inside zone read and outran the safety into the end zone.”
With the win the (10-1) Tigers will host No. 7 Cecilia in Bill Ruple Stadium Friday night. Cecilia defeated No. 10 Lakeshore, 44-37, last Friday night.