Devante “Speedy” Noil made one of the worst plays of Friday night’s Karr-St. Augustine game at Tad Gormley Stadium.
But when Karr needed him during the final minutes of a 33-24 victory, Noil, one of the nation’s top receiver prospcts, also made one of the biggest plays of the nondistrict matchup.
Noil scrambled 47 yards to set up his 3-yard touchdown run with 5:10 left, giving the Cougars the lead in a game dominated by their opponent most of the way. And after his defense forced St. Augustine to punt, Noil led another scoring drive, this time capped by his 17-yard touchdown to Joshua Peterson.
“I put the team on my back,” said Noil, who threw for 138 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another two.
With the win, Karr found a way to escape a game it appeared poised to lose, and instead, extended its winning streak to 16 games, dating to last season. Not enough, though, to satisfy first-year Karr coach Nathaniel Jones, who didn’t witness the effort he wanted, but did discover the resiliency of his Cougars.
“John Curtis is going to be a whole lot tougher,” Jones said, mentioning Karr’s opponent on Sept. 26.
Noil’s effort was enough to overshadow St. Augustine running back Leonard Fournette, his blue-chip peer across the field who was visibly shaken after the loss. It marked St. Augustine’s latest loss against Karr, the defending Class 4A state champions.
“I really, firmly believe that the better team did not win tonight,” St Augustine coach Cyril Crutchfield said. “Were they better tonight? Yes. But a lot of that, we have to credit to what we didn’t do.”
Fournette finished with 23 rushes for 84 yards. He also caught a 93-yard TD and threw a 63-yard touchdown pass. He missed part of the third quarter with an unknown injury.
Not that Karr (2-0) played a perfect game.
In fact, St. Augustine (1-1) was poised to to collect the win until the final minutes. The Purple Knights led 24-14 in the third quarter. St. Augustine then committed turnovers on back-to-back possessions — first, a fumble on a rushing play and then an interception by quarterback Toi Jackson.
“When I saw (receiver) Stanley Morgan go for the ball, I went up for the ball,” Karr cornerback Jonathan Willard said. “And I knew it was mine.”
Karr capitalized on both miscues. Noil found Kenneth Simmons on a 53-yard TD, and after St. Augustine’s second turnover, he rushed up the middle on the first play for 47 yards. His short scoring run followed.
Noil’s big mistake occurred in the third quarter. Lined up as a punter, he opted to run on fourth-and-long instead of punting.
“That was my mistake, I was trying to do too much,” Noil said.
Other times, he did just enough.
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