Before every season, Neville head coach Mickey McCarty always highlights a tough road game on the schedule for the possibility of hitting the road in the postseason. Come Friday, McCarty is hoping that long-term planning pays off.

The No. 2 Neville Tigers will make its longest road trip since the St. Thomas More contest in September when the Tigers take on No. 18 DeRidder, who upset No. 15 Minden, 14-13, in the opening round.

“Last trip we took to South Louisiana didn’t go so well,” said McCarty of Neville’s 35-6 loss . “We hope we learn from that experience because that was certainly a quality environment at St. Thomas More.”

Neville’s season turned around shortly after that loss. The (8-2) Tigers fell to West Monroe the following week before ripping off five straight wins, including an opening round 41-14 victory against South Lafourche. A big reason for that is health. McCarty said the Tigers are the healthiest they’ve been in a month, but McCarty looked to knock on wood after making that statement.

“Having Javon (Carter) return at linebacker was a big boost for our defense,” McCarty said. “It gives us more depth defensively, and of course, adds his playmaking ability. The injury that really stung us the most was losing (Iken) Tankchell for the year. But we’ve battled back. We’ve had injuries, sickness and all sorts of things this year. I’m almost scared to pick up the phone when it rings now.”

Awaiting the Tigers this Friday night in the second round will be an 8-3 DeRidder team that has scored victories over Jennings and Leesville this season. The Dragons operate out of a 4-2-5 defense and have held opponents to less than 18 points per contest this season. DeRidder runs a primarily spread, run-oriented scheme that’s used to eat clock and possessions.

“ They’ll play a gun-type offense with a dual threat quarterback, and their line does an outstanding job of blocking,” McCarty said. “They want to run it at you, shorten the game and eat the clock. It heightens our awareness offensively that you just can’t waste possessions.”

The Tigers flexed its 4A muscle at home against No. 31 South Lafourche in a 41-14 victory in Bill Ruple Stadium last Friday night.

The Tigers distanced themselves early in the contest with the arm of quarterback Andrew Brister, who completed 9-of-13 passes for 111 yards and four touchdowns.

The Tigers went to their passing game early in the night, as Brister connected with Mercurius Chatman on the first two touchdowns of the game. Brister and Chatman hooked up on an eight-yard score before connecting again on a 36-yard strike that put the Tigers up 14-0 in the first quarter. Brister was just 3-of-4 for 47 yards and two scores on the Tigers’ first two possessions.

Neville running back Max Hunter got in on the action later in the quarter with a two-yard score that helped put the Tigers in full command at home.

Meanwhile, the Tigers defense forced one fourth down stop after another. Safety Andrew Cagle recorded an interception to help aid the Tigers’ runaway victory.

South Lafourche capitalized on a Neville fumble, along with three Tiger penalties, to reduce Neville’s lead to two touchdowns in the second quarter. The momentum was short lived, however.

The Tigers added a little bit more separation when Brister threw his third touchdown of the night. Brister found Derryck Dorsey on a five-yard strike to make it 28-7 at halftime.

Out of the break, Neville running back A.J. Allen made it 35-7 after he turned on the burners for a 28-yard score.

Brister’s fourth touchdown of the game came when he connected with Dorsey again on a 15-yard score to put the Tigers up, 41-7, in the third quarter.

The Tigers defense held South Lafourche to 125 total yards.

Award-winning sports writer for columns and features since joining the field in 2013. As the first-ever featured columnist of the month at Bleacher Report, Martin cut his teeth with online media before joining the newspaper business in 2014.

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