Neville (7-0, 2-0) at Bastrop (2-5, 0-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
It doesn't take a football genius to figure out that the Bastrop Rams (2-5, 0-1) are a struggling football team. With top-ranked Neville coming to town Friday at 7 p.m., the Rams need to find their A game in a hurry.
Winners of 34 of their last 35 games, the Tigers (7-0, 2-0) are chasing their fifth straight District 2-4A championship and their third state title in four years.
Ranked No. 1 in Class 4A, the Tigers have reeled off consecutive victories over Ruston (29-14), Acadiana (35-28), Ouachita (21-7), Carroll (51-6), Airline (30-20), Franklin Parish (37-13) and Wossman (48-0).
Quarterback John Diarse, who tormented the Rams the past three years, is now a freshman wide receiver at LSU. With Andre Fuller II taking over at quarterback, the Tigers haven't missed a beat.
“Diarse is gone, but the cupboard's far from bare,” Bastrop coach Thomas Bachman said of Neville. “Fuller does a real good job.”
After facing Union Parish and Franklin Parish — a pair of run-oriented teams — the past two weeks, the Tigers present a new set of challenges. Though Neville leans heavily on the run, Fuller is a big-play threat through the air. In fact, the Tigers average nearly 20 yards per completion.
“They have two big targets,” Bachman said, referring to Kylon Highshaw and D'vonte McFarland.
And the Rams must account for slot receiver Kavonte Turpin, who Bachman says bears a striking resemblance to a former All-State receiver from Bastrop.
“Turpin reminds me so much of Jay (Wilson),” Bachman said. “Turpin might be a little taller and a little longer than Jay, but his ability to catch the ball and make people miss reminds me of Jay.”
Turpin and Fuller lead the Tigers' deep rushing attack.
Defensively, the Tigers are anchored by linebacker Ashari Goins, the reigning District 2-4A Defensive MVP, and highly-recruited defensive back Laurence Jones.
“They go eight deep across the defensive front and they have the Defensive Player of the Year back,” Bachman said. “They've been getting real good play out of their edge guys. Everybody's recruiting Jones. LSU and Alabama are battling over him.”
Neville's kicking game has been spectacular with Michael Green handling kickoffs and Brian Barefoot taking care of extra points and field goals.
“Very rarely is the ball not kicked in the end zone on kickoffs,” Bachman said. “I saw (Barefoot) kick a 45-yard field goal on film.”
Bastrop is on a two-game losing streak after falling to Union Parish 34-22 and dropping a 59-42 road decision at Franklin Parish last week.
Bastrop surrendered 481 yards on 60 running plays against Franklin Parish. Although the offense played well enough to win, the Rams committed four turnovers (three by the offense, one on special teams). It marked the second straight week that the Rams had not forced a turnover.
Quarterback Christian Doaty has passed for 1,583 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Antwone Green (32 carries, 334 yards, 4 touchdowns in four games), Jerry Powell (41-322-4) and Travion Burks (45-308-3) lead a deep and balanced running game.
Jamari Payne (48 receptions, 793 yards, 8 touchdowns), who has recorded four straight 100-plus yard games, is the centerpiece of the receiving corps. Isaiah Graham (21-391-7) and Devin Brown (15-206-2) provide additional options in the passing game.
Sophomore Devin Barfield, who drew his first career starting assignment last week, will make his second straight start at right tackle. The position became vacant when Chris Givens moved to Texas.
Bastrop's leading tacklers are safety Lester Lee (61 tackles, 4 tackles for loss) and linebacker Kentreylus Hill-Pates (45 tackles, 2 TFL).
Bastrop linebacker Kylan Ricks, who left the Franklin Parish game with a sprained ankle, is listed as doubtful.
Closing out a two-game homestand, the Rams take on Wossman for Senior Night next Friday.