NEW ORLEANS — It took three long seasons, but the Edna Karr Cougars are finally the best in Class 4A.
Behind a speedy quarterback and a defense that refused to stop Friday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Karr found a way to overcome its mistakes and curtail the heroics of LSU commitment John Diarse of Neville at the LHSAA/State Farm Prep Classic.
This 29-22 victory was enough to end Neville’s dynasty and start Karr’s state reign. Still, Karr had to earn the second state title in school history, rallying from a four-point deficit in the fourth quarter and keeping Diarse out of the end zone.
The Cougars, 4A runner-ups the previous two seasons, won this highly anticipated rematch of the 2011 title game and ended Neville’s winning streak at 27 games. Neville had been aiming for its third title in four seasons.
“Tonight is unbelievable. Tonight is 10 years of hard work,” said Karr coach Jabbar Juluke, who played at Southern. “When I first got this job, Mr. (John) Hiser took a chance on a 29-year-old, unproven head football coach with little experience. This is for all those young men who came through the program.”
Karr (14-0) won this game like many others this season — and unlike many others during previous years. Instead of teammates waiting for quarterback Devante “Speedy” Noil to make a big play, they took turns inspiring each other.
While Neville (13-1) relied on Diarse’s running and passing, Karr’s offense ranged from Noil’s scrambles and short passes to a steady dose of rushes from his teammates. Running back Jeremy Jamison had the biggest impact by scoring twice, including a 53-yard run with 4:17 left. Noil ran for the two-point conversion, which started a celebration halted the past two seasons.
“My coaches said to sacrifice everything,” Jamison said. “And I gave everything for my team.”
Jamison rushed 14 times for 129 yards. Noil threw for 143 yards on 10-for-15 passing.
Karr was far from perfect. The Cougars fumbled a punt return in the second quarter and, in the third, Noil fumbled a low snap. Neville transformed those mistakes into nine points.
But it wasn’t enough against a Karr defense that held Diarse to minimum gains by his lofty standards — he entered the game with 17 passing TDs. Diarse passed for 151 yards with one score. He also ran 25 times for 148 yards and was sacked twice.
Karr forced Neville’s offense to settle for three Brian Barefoot field goals; he missed his first attempt, from 20 yards, in the first quarter. With his team trailing 21-19 midway through the fourth, Barefoot converted from 45 yards, giving Neville a 21-21 lead.
But Jamison had yet to add his last big run.
“We had a great year, a great run and a great streak,” Neville coach Mickey McCarty said. “We ask our guys to play hard for four quarters. We did that tonight, and we fell short. It’s an emotional time, but I’m so proud of these players. You play a state championship game down to the fourth quarter, and you can’t ask for anything more.”
Diarse gave Neville an early 7-0 lead with a 15-yard TD pass to Andre Fuller. Jamison countered for Karr with his first score, a run from 2 yards. After Karr’s fumble on a punt return, Barefoot converted a 24-yard field goal.
Noil then led Karr on its second scoring drive, capped by his 20-yard TD pass to Glenn Irons. As time expired in the first half, Barefoot made a 35-yard field goal.