The coach may have changed.
The winning tradition hasn’t.
Edna Karr, under the direction of first-year coach Brice Brown, is back in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Saturday afternoon for the fifth time in six seasons.
It will be tradition vs. even more tradition when No. 14 seed Karr (9-4) plays top seed and defending state champion Neville (13-0) in the Class 4A state title game.
Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.
Neville of Monroe rolls into the Dome on a 25-game winning streak.
Karr’s road wasn’t nearly as smooth.
The Cougars started the season 0-3 under Brown, the school’s third coach in the past four seasons. He replaced Nathaniel Jones, who spent two seasons on Huntlee Drive before taking an assistant coaching job at a college in Illinois. Before that was Jabbar Juluke, who guided Karr to its last state title in 2012.
Brown, who had served as offensive coordinator under both Juluke and Jones, didn’t waver after the rocky start that included a blowout loss to St. Paul’s and three-point setbacks against Landry-Walker and Brother Martin.
“I didn’t question myself, but it was an interesting transition,” said Brown, a 2004 Karr graduate. “I pulled some things from (Juluke and Jones) and learned how to handle adverse situations. I talked to both during the bye week after that start and they both had the same message.”
That message was simple:
“You know what you’re doing, so just keep doing what you’re doing.”
It was all Brown needed to hear.
“I think having the vote of confidence from them two humbled me and kept me and the staff stick with the task,” Brown said.
Karr responded in a big way, winning nine of its next 10 games. The lone loss came against Easton in a game that starting quarterback Aldon Clark missed with an injury.
Clark, who has thrown for more than 3,400 yards this season, knew the Cougars could get things turned around.
“The state championship never left our minds,” Clark said. “Just because you start off slow at the beginning of the season doesn’t mean the season is over.”
Clark and his teammates have some extra incentive in this one against a Neville team going for its 12th title.
It’s the third time to the two schools have played for the title, with Neville winning in 2011 and Karr winning a year later. The two teams met in the quarterfinals in 2014, with Neville winning that one.
“I really want another shot at them,” Clark said. “It really hurt to lose them last year.”
Brown said the key will be protecting Clark. Neville’s defensive line is led by Rashard Lawrence, a five-star recruit coveted by every college in the country. But Lawrence isn’t just a one-man show.
“The thing that stands out about them is that front four,” Brown said. “That’s the challenge that we are facing. But we are going to do what we do and drop back and pass and try to make plays.”
Brown, a former offensive lineman at Grambling, said his phone has been constantly ringing this week with calls and text messages from Karr alums wishing him the best as the school goes for its third championship.
He lives just a two-minute drive from the school, so he heard the doubters in Algiers when the school got off to a slow start.
“They were a little hesitant at first, thinking this is one of the years we may step back a little bit,” Brown said. “Once we started getting it going, they really rallied behind us and stuck with us. Representing Algiers and us being a public school and going to the Dome five of the last six years is really outstanding. It’s a testament to the players we have and to the coaches on my staff.”