NEW ORLEANS — Karr High coach Jabbar Juluke wants his football players, especially his seniors, to appreciate the fact that no matter what happens in Friday’s Class 4A championship game against Neville, they have accomplished much in their high school careers.
This senior class has made three straight trips to the title game plus an overtime loss in the quarterfinals when they were freshmen thrown in for good measure.
Karr (13-0), the No. 2 seed, plays top-seeded Neville (13-0) in the 4A title game that helps highlight Friday’s action at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association/State Farm Prep Classic. Game time is 8 p.m. at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Ouachita Christian (14-0) takes on Haynesville (11-2) in the 1A final that opens the action at 4 p.m.
“I want them to know what a great opportunity they’ve had,” Juluke said. “There’s more than 300 high schools playing football in this state, but only 10 make it this far every year, much less three years in a row. This is a special week for them, and I want them to enjoy it.”
Try telling that to Cougars senior tight end Standish Dobard though.
While acknowledging that maybe someday he and his teammates will look back fondly on their experiences, they won’t be fulfilled without a ring.
“Walking off the field those last two years after we’d lost was the worst feeling I’ve ever had,” said Dobard. “We worked so hard all season, and put our hearts into getting to the state championship game and then we didn’t finish.
“I know coach wanted us to be happy about how far we came, but I’m not thinking about that right now. I’m just thinking about this one.”
That’s in large part because Karr is playing the same school that beat the Cougars 27-6, in last year’s championship game. Neville advanced to the title game with a 28-8 semifinal victory over McDonogh 35.
“We know a lot of guys at 35, but we were pulling for Neville,” Dobard said. “It wouldn’t have been the same thing if they’d lost. This way, nobody can say we didn’t beat the best team.”
Actually, if Neville wins, it will be the other way around.
At least that’s the view of McDonogh 35 coach Wayne Reese, whose team lost to the Cougars, 35-8, in the regular season. Reese is picking Karr.
“Neville likes to come right at you with its power running game, but Karr has so many good athletes and depth on its defense,” he said. “They’re just stronger there so Neville can’t do to them what they did to us.
“Karr’s better on the offensive line and throws the ball better, too. If the refs let them play and there’s not a lot of penalties, it’s going to be like a heavyweight championship bout.”
As Reese indicated, no team in any classification has as many college prospects as Karr. A minimum of eight seniors will sign with FBS schools, including Dobard, who has committed to Miami. Another 12 are in the pipeline for next season.
That’s helped create a dominating year for Karr. Despite a demanding regular-season schedule, the Cougars had one game closer than 20 points.
In the playoffs, after big victories against Peabody (50-6) and Northwood (35-14) the Cougars were tested the past two weeks by St. Augustine (28-12) and Holy Cross (28-16).
Those 16 points were the most Karr’s given up.
Junior quarterback Speedy Noil has thrown for 2,060 yards and 23 touchdowns with five interceptions. Dobard is his top receiver with 39 catches for 688 yards and nine TDs.
Safety Noel Ellis, a Texas A&M commitment, has returned four interceptions for TDs, four punt returns for TDs and one kickoff return for a score.
Defensive end, Gerald Willis, a likely five-star recruit for next year, had 13 sacks.
In an age when recruits are constantly bombarded with questions about their status while being told how great they are, the team has not evidenced any attitude problems.
“Our best players are also our leaders,” Juluke said. “They don’t let their heads get turned around and distracted and they don’t let the others get that way either.
“They push each other, but more than anything else they consider themselves their brother’s keepers, and that goes for every player on the team.”
“We’re all happy for each other,” he said. “It’s not about ‘I’m getting a scholarship to this school and you’re not,’
“It’s team first, and we motivate each other.”
And right now, the Cougars are motivated to win the school’s first state championship since 1993. Especially after last year’s loss, which Dobard said hurt far worse then the 34-28 double overtime loss to Franklinton in the 2010 title game.
“That could have gone either way,” he said. “Last year, we didn’t play our hardest.
“I don’t know why, but we didn’t show up. This time, we’re going to finish, and finish strong.”
HAYNESVILLE VS. OUACHITA CHRISTIAN: Top-seeded OCS seeks a second straight unbeaten season for the first time in school history.
Multi-talented Braden Bristo will play quarterback, receiver and defensive back for the Monroe-based Eagles, who have won 29 straight games since losing to White Castle in the 2010 title game.
Haynesville is led by running back CaVontae Critton and quarterback Jerrell Jackson and has making its first title-game appearance since winning the 1A title in 2009.