NEW ORLEANS — The St. Augustine football team entered its Class 4A playoff game against Karr on Friday night amid a fireworks display. However, the Purple Knights’ on-the-field show didn’t match the one before the game.
Karr quarterback Devante Noil saved his explosion for the game itself, and it came quickly, as he led the Cougars to a 28-12 quarterfinal victory at Behrman Stadium.
Noil ran 60 yards for a touchdown and threw two touchdown passes in the first half to lead the Cougars. Karr (12-0) advanced to the state semifinals against Holy Cross next Friday.
“This was a ‘hot’ game because coach (Jabbar) Juluke is a St. Aug alumnus,” said Noil, who was 10 of 17 passing with two touchdowns and ran eight times for 98 yards and a score. “But coach told us cooler heads would prevail in this game.”
Noil’s outburst got Karr going, and running back Jeremy Jamison, who gained 124 yards on 21 carries, helped keep St. Aug at bay in the second half.
However, to Juluke, the key to the victory was the play of the Cougars’ defense. Karr held Purple Knights running back Leonard Fournette — who gained 354 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s victory over St. Thomas More — to 100 yards and one touchdown on 25 carries.
“Our front eight lived up to its billing,” Juluke said. “And when the passed, our defensive backs made plays.”
Karr picked off St. Aug quarterback Toi Jackson twice, one setting up the clinching touchdown. Jackson was 11 of 26 for 155 yards and a touchdown.
Noil broke for his touchdown run on Karr’s second play of the game, an option keeper around the left
side, for a 7-0 lead. Noil noted that St. Aug’s defensive end went for Jamison instead of him on the previous play.
“It was a blitz by them, but coach has our defense do that in practice,” Noil said.
Karr regained possession at its 31 after a punt, and Noil later threw at pass to Juriah Tolbert on a slant pattern that he turned into a 50-yard scoring play with 7:13 showing in the first.
St. Augustine (9-4) fought back, though. Fournette, a junior who’s rated as one of the best running backs in the country, scored on a 2-yard run with 1:56 left in the quarter, cutting the lead to 14-6.
The Purple Knights closed to 14-12 at 11:52 of the second quarter when receiver Stanley Morgan made a diving catch of a pass by Jackson for a 22-yard touchdown. However, St. Augustine failed on two-point conversion attempts after both of its scores.
Karr got the ball on downs with nine minutes left in the second quarter. Eight plays later, Noil passed 15 yards to Glenn Irons for a touchdown and a 21-12 lead at the 5:57 mark.
With the way their defense was playing, the Cougars all but sealed the victory midway of the third quarter. Karr defensive back Elcee Refuge intercepted a pass from Jackson and returned the ball to the St. Aug 35. Jamison ran for all 35 yards on three carreies, the final one a 6-yard touchdown run.
Karr, which has advanced to the state finals the past two seasons, rushed for 230 yards and 17 first downs. St. Aug had 117 yards rushing and 12 first downs.
Noil lost two fumbles, but the Knights could not take advantage.