Neville 17, Bastrop 12
MONROE — Neville still runs District 2-4A.
In a game in which neither team played particularly well, the Tigers did just enough to squeeze out a 17-12 Senior Night victory over Bastrop on a cool, damp Thursday night.
Neville (7-2, 3-0) stretched its district dominance to a full decade by defeating the Rams for the 10th straight year.
Though it was clearly a disappointing finish to the regular season for the Rams (7-2, 2-1), coach Adrian Burnette stressed the importance of moving on.
"The biggest thing is we can't let Neville beat us twice. I think (losing to Neville) beat us twice last year," Burnette said, looking back to last year's first-round playoff loss to New Orleans Carver.
Bastrop, which came into the game at No. 7 in the power ratings, should still be in position to host a first-round playoff game next week. Pairings will be released Sunday by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association.
Mistakes were the storyline of Thursday night's highly-anticipated get-together at Bill Ruple Stadium as the Rams and Tigers combined for 235 yards in penalties and seven turnovers.
"Too many penalties," Bastrop coach Adrian Burnette sighed. "We never could get into a rhythm offensively because it's hard to call plays when you are constantly in first-and-15, second-and-20."
Bastrop had twice as much penalty yardage (18 for 123) as rushing yardage (25 carries, 61 yards) while managing only 239 total yards.
Neville incurred its share of flags, too, (13 for 112) while overcoming four turnovers (two fumbles, two picks).
Receiving the opening kickoff, the Tigers drove from their 11 to the Bastrop 14 behind Max Hunter's 28-yard run before settling for Gordon Willson's 31-yard field goal.
Bastrop played well enough to win defensively, holding the Tigers to 275 yards of total offense (246 rushing, 29 passing) and making a series of stops to keep the game close.
"Holding then to three points on the first series was big," Burnette said.
Christian Smith's 27-yard kickoff return permitted the Rams to start their first series from midfield.
Shortly afterward, Quaterius Hawkins scrambled to his left and found a backpedaling Jordan Mansfield for 22 yards for a first down at the two.
After a false start backed the Rams up to the 7, Neville dodged a bullet on Javon Carter's fumble recovery at the 1.
"Like I'm always telling the kids, only a handful of plays — maybe seven or eight — are going to determine the outcome of the game," Burnette said. "That was definitely one of them."
After an exchange of punts, Neville began its third series from the minus-44.
Quarterback Jordan Thomas, who consistently burned the Rams on zone reads in the first half, kept for 17 yards on third-and-17 and again for nine yards on third-and-nine to highlight a 12-play, 56-yard drive. Corralling a high snap, Thomas scored the game's first touchdown from a yard out on a busted play to put the Tigers in control 10-0.
Bastrop went three and out on its next series, but regained possession when Robert McDaniel intercepted a first down pass at the minus-40.
Hawkins' nine-yard gain pushed the Rams into Neville territory at the 49, but a holding penalty soon disrupted the series and brought on the punting unit, once again.
Starting from their own 35, the Tigers advanced all the way to the Bastrop 12 behind Andrew Brister's 23-yard pass to Thomas and Andrew Greeley's 20-yard run.
An unsportsmanlike conduct infraction retreated the Tigers to the 28 before Phillip Jackson intercepted a fourth-and 15 pass at the 3.
Jackson's 37-yard return enabled the Rams to start from their own 40 with 2:47 remaining in the half.
Christian Smith's 21-yard reception and three penalties against the Tigers helped set up Kyrese Lawrence's 7-yard run with 19.2 seconds left in the half. Bastrop came up empty on the try for two, but went in trailing only 10-6 at the break.
Bastrop's momentum was short-lived.
Hawkins' 10-yard run on the first play from scrimmage was good for a first down at the 40, but Carl Edmonds snared his own tipped pass for an interception two plays later.
Edmonds' 21-yard return put the Tigers in business at the plus-33, but Robeyone Williams' fumble recovery at the 18 repelled the threat.
After two straight empty possessions by the Rams, the Tigers embarked on a nine-play, 55-yard drive, which culminated with Javon Carter's 1-yard run late in the third quarter.
Bastrop continued to struggle offensively as the Tigers stopped a fourth-and-two just shy of the first down.
Taking over on downs at the Bastrop 40, the Tigers were unable to put the game away as the Rams pounced on a fumble at their own 18.
A false start backed the Rams up to the 13 before Smith's 27-yard reception got the Rams out of the hole at the 40.
On fourth-and-four, Hawkins' 7-yard pass to Calvert Johnson kept the Rams' offense on the field at the Neville 39.
Two plays later, Fenceroy's 34-yard touchdown catch closed the Rams within 17-12 with 6:30 on the clock.
Derryck Dorsey then made a big play that will likely be overlooked. Fielding a sky kick cleanly on one hop with the Rams closing in, Dorsey prevented the Rams from regaining possession inside the 30.
Greeley's 17-yard run moved the chains before the Tigers eventually punted.
Smith dazzling 15-yard punt return enabled the Rams to set up at their own 36 with 3:27 remaining.
A first down holding penalty put the Rams behind the sticks.
On fourth-and-eight Bastrop was able to pick up the first down yardage, but Carter jarred the ball loose from the receiver and Edmonds made the recovery to seal the Tigers' victory.