Despite the departures of coach Nathaniel Jones and a bevy of NCAA Division I talent, the lofty expectations for perennial Class 4A powerhouse Edna Karr haven’t changed.

At Karr, it’s district championship, a deep playoff run or bust. Newly appointed coach Brice Brown, an alum who accepted the offensive linemen coaching position in 2007 with the Cougars before replacing Jones in February, said he embraces the challenge.

“The last two weeks, I’ve been preaching to the coaching staff and the players that we need to continue to stay on the same page and move forward,” said Brown following a team scrimmage Saturday. “Everyone from top to bottom has to be on board and move in the same direction, and we’ll be fine.”

It also helps to return offensive standouts in quarterback Aldon Clark, running back Jurell Dunn and wide receiver Kenneth Simmons in addition to boasting Miller-McCoy transfer Andre Anthony and Devin Edenburgh on defense.

“Defense wins championships, and they won today,” Brown said of Saturday’s scrimmage.

“It’s encouraging to see the defense flying around out there. They’re playing fast to the ball. Once you fly fast to the ball, you’re going to make a play. You’re going to be disruptive out there. That’s what we want to see.”

With exception to one miscue, a bubble screen thrown to wide receiver Rayce McMath that went for a 70-yard touchdown on the second series of the scrimmage, the Cougars’ defensive unit consistently pressured Clark.

The rising junior, who amassed 1,304 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, orchestrated several drives, but couldn’t punch the ball into the end zone thanks to a goal-line stand.

“We have some young guys on the field, but they’re making tremendous strides and stepping up for us, which allows us to play faster and accomplish what we want on defense. They’re learning quickly,” safety Kaycee Ntukogu said.

“As for the unit as a whole, we don’t have any hesitation. We get after the ball each and every single play.”

Twice, the Cougars sacked Clark. A half-dozen other instances, the front seven forced Clark into quick decisions and an interception.

Edenburgh wedged separation from his blocker and intercepted a Clark pass, which was tipped at the line of scrimmage.

Nonetheless, Brown remains pleased with the development and decision-making of Clark.

“He’s had an excellent spring. We’re mixing some things up with him, adding more to his plate, getting him into three-step drops, and he’s handled the different pace of practice, the different pace of the offense very well,” Brown said.

“He’s growing into the position.”