The combination of athletes like Neville’s in a scheme like Neville’s brings to the table a scary amount of big play potential. That potential has reared its head often throughout the season, but not like it did Friday night.
Neville tallied six plays from scrimmage of 20 or more yards – plus two more, both touchdown passes, that called back by penalties – in a 42-14 quarterfinals win over North DeSoto. As the top seed in 4A, Neville will host the semifinal game.
“The offensive line did another good job tonight,” Neville coach Mickey McCarty said. “Their defense is a pressure defense: they take some risks and left a few things open that we were able to hit at times, and they hit us a few times. We were able to create some explosive plays in the throwing game and in the running game.
“I thought our strength and conditioning really paid off. Our kids played strong, ran through some tackles to create some big plays.”
Four of those six 20-plus yard plays resulted in touchdowns, the first of them Josh Diarse’s 42-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter. Diarse’s score put the Tigers up 14-0, one week after Carencro went up on Neville 12-0 in the first quarter.
“I was really proud that we didn’t turn our motors off, so to speak, after going up two scores. We got off to a good start and kept playing, and I was proud of that,” McCarty said.
The other explosive scoring plays were a 46-yard run by Donald Jenkins late in the second quarter, a 47-yard pass from Cole to Quintin Guice on Neville’s first possession of the third quarter and a 39-yard touchdown run from Cole in the fourth quarter that was the game’s final score.
Defensively, the Tigers held North DeSoto’s offense that entered the game averaging over 36 points per game to a season low 14 points. Defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence played a key role in it, clogging up North DeSoto’s staple dive play and otherwise disrupting the Griffins’ backfield with consistency.
Tonight, Neville ran for more yards (245) than North DeSoto had total yards of offense (235). That is the punchline.— Brett Hudson (@BHudson977) November 28, 2015
“It was really big to have a presence inside like that can be disruptive. He wasn’t the only one, but his big body was certainly in the backfield a few times creating some havoc,” McCarty said. “I’m really proud of our defensive unit: to defend that it takes 11 players doing their job, so really proud of that effort defensively.”
Cole started the scoring for the Tigers with his 8-yard run on the first possession of the game, capping an eight-play, 87-yard drive. Jenkins also scored on a 10-yard run late in the third quarter to give the Tigers a 35-14 lead at the time.
Guice was a key receiver for the Tigers, catching five passes for five passes for 121 yards and a touchdown. Cole led the Tigers with 14 carries for 99 yards and two scores while throwing for 135 yards on 7-for-11 passing. Jenkins ran six times for 75 yards and Diarse ran three times for 45 yards in addition to a six-yard reception.
Touchdowns off the board: The previously mentioned two touchdown passes called back by penalties were a 42-yard score from Cole to William Wooten in the third quarter and a 39-yard score from Cole to Deshun Roberson. The Tigers quickly scored after the setbacks, scoring two plays after Wooten’s touchdown was called back and scoring the play immediately following Roberson’s touchdown was called back.
Special unit: North DeSoto’s track record of onside kicks inspired Neville to put a different kick return unit on the field. Guice, Corey Straighter, Cole, Robert Williams and Chandler Moses were the front line, backed up by Jake Kelly, Deshun Roberson and Josh Diarse. The Griffins only attempted one onside kick, easily recovered by Moses. North DeSoto also attempted a fake punt, a pass that was well-covered and eventually overthrown to result in the turnover on downs.
Straughter does it again: In addition to a few well-defended deep balls, Straughter yet against made an impact as Neville’s punt returner. Straughter returned North DeSoto’s first punt for 26 yards to put the Tigers in North DeSoto territory — Neville scored two plays later. Straughter did the same in the fourth quarter, against returning a punt for 26 yards into North DeSoto territory to set up a quick (three plays) Neville scoring drive.
Follow Brett on Twitter, @BHudsonTNS.