Crowley faces still challenge in No. 2 Edna Karr
CROWLEY – Being a top 16 seed in the state playoffs has its advantages.
But being a top 16 seed also carries with it potential disadvantages, as the Crowley Gents have found out all too well.
While the 15th-seeded Gents enjoyed some of those benefits last week - hosting a first-round game and facing a lower seed - it’s a totally different story this week.
The reward for their victory over the Peabody Warhorses last week is a date with perennial powerhouse and No. 2 seed Edna Karr of New Orleans, arguably one of the best teams in the state in any classification.
The two teams meet Thursday (7) at Tad Gormley Stadium.
“There is no hiding it: Karr is very, very good,” said Fontenot of the Cougars, defending Class 4A champions. “They have been in the Dome the last three years and they won it last year. They have some very good athletes and they are well coached.”
Karr enters tonight’s contest with a 9-1 record; their lone defeat the last two years, a 38-33 decision to Division II top seed John Curtis in Week 3.
In that game, the Cougars rallied from a 21-point deficit and actually led in the final minutes before the Patriots pulled it out with a last-second touchdown.
The District 10-4A champions own victories over Class 5A powerhouse and Division 1 top seed St. Augustine and Class 4A seeds Landry Walker (No. 3) Warren Easton (No. 5) and McDonogh 35 (No. 29), all members of its own district.
“This is a very big challenge for us, but it is one that we are very excited about,” said Fontenot, whose Gents are 8-3 on the season. “We get to see where we are at as a program, how far we’ve come and where we need to go. If we can hang around with Karr, then we’re way ahead of where we thought at this point. If we lose to them, then we know where we need to go and what we need to do to get to that level.”
But even with the odds stacked against them, Fontenot’s Gents aren’t traveling to New Orleans to just throw in the towel.
It may be David vs. Goliath, but losing isn’t on the Gents’ minds.
“We’re not backing down,” said Fontenot. “You’re in the playoffs and it’s 4A football. These guys (Karr) are going to be out there at some point, whether you get them in the first round or second round. Everyone wants to get to the Dome and at some point you have to beat Karr and you have to be Neville and West Jefferson and all these other schools that are traditionally good. We just happen to get one of them in the second round.
“We’re going over there to win this football game.”
In order for the Gents to get that victory, they will have to contain an explosive offense that is averaging just under 40 points per game. The Cougars scored a season high 53 points last week in a rout of Salmen and have a season low of 26 points in a victory over Landry Walker.
The Cougars’s spread offense is led by senior quarterback Kerry Taylor, who took over for Devante “Speedy” Noil after Noil went down with a pulled groin in the John Curtis game. Taylor has thrown for 1,905 yards and 22 touchdowns in seven games since taking over under center.
Taylor isn’t alone, either; he has more than his fair share of options at receiver. Jeriah Tolbert (6-3, 190), Glenn Irons (5-11, 165) and Joshua Peterson (5-10, 165) who have combined for over 1,800 yards and 22 touchdowns thus far.
In addition, Noil, one of the nation’s top prospects, is back in the lineup, which adds another threat since the Cougars use him in various roles, including receiver.
“They are a spread offense and they want to throw it whether it be some short bubble screens or some shots down the field,” said Fonenot. “They have some very good route combinations and a very accurate quarterback. They have a very good offensive line and they have four to six receivers that all have the ability to get their hands on the ball and make big plays.”
That offensive threat will put tremendous pressure on the Gents’ defense, which is coming off possibly its best outing of the season.
The unit gave up a pair of late touchdowns last week against Peabody, but they limited the Warhorses to just 214 total yards and 11 first downs. The bulk of those yards and first downs were allowed in the fourth quarter.
“We’re going to have to tackle very well in space and we’re going to have to put some pressure on the quarterback to where he can’t just sit back there and pick us apart,” said Fontenot. “If we can tackle well in space and kind of aggravate him (Taylor) and get him off his throws a little bit, we’ll have a chance to slow them down.”
Defensively, the Cougars pose an even bigger threat with a number of Division I commitments.
Gerald Willis, a 6-foot-3, 270 pound defensive end and the reigning Class 4A Defensive MVP, leads the charge for a unit that is giving up just under 18 points per game this season.
Willis, along with Noil, will announce his college commitment during the Under Armour All-American game in January.
Willis is joined on the defensive side of the ball by Joyan Williams at defensive end and Juwan Offray at cornerback, both Oklahoma State commits. Nebraska commit Jaevon Walton and Louisiana Tech commit Quanta Moore are linebackers while Donnie Alexander, an LSU commit, is at free safety.
“They are big and pretty,” said Fontenot of the Cougars’ defense. “Their defensive end is really good; their linebackers are probably the best we will see; the secondary is very athletic and the strong safety plays well.
“And, again, the thing that impresses me is that they are very well coached; they move well to the ball and they don’t take any plays off. They come after you.”
That defense, however, should have its hands full with the Gents who have been clicking offensively since the middle of the season.
Quarterback Pate Broussard has thrown for 1,700 yards and 19 touchdowns this year while running back Ty’Von Griffin has racked up 1,042 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. Chris Lewis follows with 907 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns.
“We have some things that we think we can do to them and be effective and we’re going to attempt to do those things,” said Fontenot. “We got to this point doing what we do so we’re not going to go and change our entire offense or do anything outrageous to beat Karr.
“We can’t go in there hesitate about what we do, we just have to be perfect at what we do and that’s the plan. We’re going to go in there and play our football game and play it at a very, very high level.”