On one hand, the Karr players and their fans, who where half of the standing-room-only crowd, were excited to be returning to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to play for a state championship for the second straight year.

On the other hand, the Cougars and their fans know that they have to replace their excitement with the determination to win the state championship now that they have a chance at redemption.

Karr (11-3) plays Neville, a 16-7 winner over Breaux Bridge, in the Class 4A state championship game.

“We’re not finished,” Karr coach Jabbar Juluke said.

Cougars quarterback Devante Noll, who rushed for 79 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 210 yards, said his team has more work to do.

“It’s great to get back to the state championship game, but we’re not going there to lose,” Noll said.

Karr can thank a dominant second half for advancing to the next round.

Trailing 7-6 at halftime, the Cougars took the first possession of the third quarter and drove 68 yards on six plays for a touchdown. Noll finished the drive with a 23-yard scoring run around right end to make the score 13-7.

“Our offensive line played a great game,” he said.

Karr then used a strange play in the third quarter to score the last points of the game.

With Lutcher facing fourth-and-three at its 20, Bulldogs punter Sully Martin hit a 30-yard punt, and the ball rested at the 50-yard line with his teammates standing around it, thinking that the play was dead.

But Karr senior Jarrell Bennett picked up the ball and ran down the sideline untouched into the end zone. Two officials conferred about the play, then awarded the Cougars a touchdown.

“The whistle never blew,” Juluke said.

But Lutcher coach Tim Detillier disagreed.

“That was the play of the game,” Detillier said. “Our kids were swearing that they downed the ball, but nobody blew the whistle.”

After that play, Lutcher mounted its best scoring opportunity in the third quarter when it drove to the Karr 28. But the drive ended when the Bulldogs were held to a 2-yard gain on a fourth-and-three play.

“Our defense has been doing an outstanding job,” Juluke said.

Lutcher (12-2) led 7-6 at halftime on the strength of its clutch defense.

Karr drove inside the Bulldogs’ 40-yard line on its first two possessions of the game in the first quarter. The first drive ended when Cougars’ running back Dejan Richardson was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-one from the Lutcher 38. The second drive ended when Noll was sacked by Lutcher’s Chase Caldarera and Blake Roussel for a 14-yard loss on fourth-and-10 from the Lutcher 47.

Lutcher drove 53 yards on seven plays for its only touchdown of the half after the sack by Caldarera and Roussel. Bulldogs quarterback Ruston Matherne sprinted around right end for a 13-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-one play with 42 seconds left in the first quarter.

But Karr responded with an eight-play, 71-yard scoring drive on the ensuing possession to make the score 7-6 with 9:58 remaining in the first half. The Cougars scored on a Noll 1-yard run up the middle, but the two-point conversion failed when holder Elcee Refuge threw an incomplete pass.

Karr had a chance to take the lead before half, but Lutcher defensive back Jordan Batiste intercepted Noll in the end zone on second and goal from the Lutcher 6 with 2:11 left.