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Vandebilt's playoff run ends with loss to Neville


Vandebilt Catholic's Aaron Smith (28) is tackled by Neville's Josh Coleman (40) and Demon Baker (40) in Friday's game. (Photo by Arely Castillo/(Monroe) News Star)


MONROE —On a drive before halftime, Vandebilt Catholic senior quarterback Elijah McGuire used his talents to stun the home crowd gathered at Neville's Bill Ruple Stadium during Friday's Class 4A quarterfinal playoff game.

In their two-minute offense, McGuire completed three straight passes and then dashed 14 yards into the end zone for a touchdown that cut Neville's lead to two points and appeared to give the underdog Terriers some life going into halftime.

That is until Neville quarterback John Diarse also showed how explosive he could be as well.

Following McGuire's scoring run, Diarse needed just one play on the ensuing drive, connecting with receiver Will Watson on a 63-yard touchdown pass as time expired in the first half.

The big touchdown pass proved to be the difference in the game, as Neville went up by nine points at halftime and scored 28 more points in the second half to roll to a 51-14 win over Vandebilt.

Neville, the top-seed and defending Class 4A state champions, advance to the semifinals to take on McDonogh 35 next week. Vandebilt's season ended with a 11-2 record.

Vandebilt coach Brad Villavaso said the Terriers had their chances in the first half, but Neville (576 total yards, 328 passing, 248 rushing) just had too many playmakers like Diarse, an LSU commit, all over the field. Diarse completed 8-of-17 passes for 328 yards and three touchdowns to go with 12 carries for 88 rushing yards and two running scores.

"We knew coming in that we were playing a good football team," Villavaso said. "Those guys did a tremendous job. We knew they had a lot of weapons. It seemed like they used it all on us. I thought we played good at times, but when you make an mistake against the Neville Tigers, their guys end up in the end zone."

McGuire had 133 rushing yards and a touchdown. He also completed 7-of-11 passes for 63 yards. He said his touchdown run, which cut Neville's lead to 16-14 after a failed two-point conversion pass with 21.8 seconds left, gave the Terriers some life for a moment, but Neville's last second score just took the wind out their sails.

"We got beat by a good football team," McGuire said. "That's all it is. They came out to play. They didn't lay down. They didn't take us lightly. They got speed. I think our defense did a good job of not giving up on that play. They got the momentum going into halftime. They just didn't give up."

Neville (12-0 overall) scored on its first possession of the game, using a 6-yard run from Salarrious Jones (11 carries, 131 yards). Diarse tossed the two-point conversion attempt on a pass, and Neville had a 8-0 lead with 8:58 left in the first quarter.

Following a 40-yard kickoff return from Jordan Bergeron, which set up the Terriers drive at their 40, Vandebilt moved it all the way down to Neville's 34-yard line. But McGuire was stopped short on a fourth down run, which forced a turnover on downs.

In the second quarter, Vandebilt had possession deep in Neville territory again, but McGuire fumbled the snap, which ended the 13-play drive at the Tigers' 11 with 7:21 remaining.

Vandebilt's defense stood tall, forcing a three-and-out with 6:28 remaining. And thanks to good field position, the Terriers were finally able to hit the scoreboard.

Right after they converted a fourth down on a 14-yard fake punt pass from punter/kicker Grant Rodriguez to Colby Guillory, the Terriers hit the scoreboard on a 1-yard touchdown run from Aaron Smith (20 carries, 89 yards). McGuire ran in the two-point conversion attempt to tie the game at 8 with 2:53 remaining in the first half.

Both teams went on to put on a offensive fireworks show in the final 2 minutes of the half.

Neville quickly answered Vandebilt's score when Kavontae Turpin caught a throwback screen pass from Diarse, hit the sideline, ran over a Vandebilt defensive and scrambled into the end zone on a 39-yard play. Laurence Jones punched in the two-point attempt to put Neville ahead 16-8 with 1:25 left in the second quarter.

Vandebilt wasn't finished, however, as McGuire took a reverse on the kickoff return team down to the Neville 47. Following a 17-yard pass to Chase Hutchinson, a 6-yard pass to Gage Corte and a 10-yard pass to Holden Bourne, McGuire took it in on a 14-yard touchdown run up the middle. McGuire's two-point conversion pass was incomplete, but the Terriers cut the lead to 16-14 with 21.8 seconds left in the first half.

It set up Diarse's big touchdown pass to Watson that gave Neville a 23-14 lead at halftime.

"A lot of credit to Vandebilt," Neville coach Mickey McCarty said. "They came in here to play. They played very hard in the first half and played us very well. The touchdown before half was a big momentum swinger."

In the second half, Neville used big plays from its offense and defense to jump out big on the Terriers.

Diarse had touchdown runs of 5 and 35 yards, and he had a 94-yard scoring pass to Turpin that put the Tigers ahead 44-14 at the end of the third quarter.

Neville capped its scoring with a 90-yard touchdown run from Jones to put the home team up 51-14 with 5:12 remaining.

Neville held the Terriers to just 124 total yards in the second half, which was a big difference from Vandebilt's 201 yards in the first half.

McCarty said he was impressed with how his defense stepped up to stop Vandebilt's offense (325 total yards, 232 rushing) in the second half.

"Our defense made some adjustments and got the job done in the second half," McCarty said. "I give a lot of credit to Vandebilt's offensive line. Early in the game, they did a great job. The big tailback (Smith) is a load, and we didn't tackle he or Eli well in the first half. I'm really proud of our team for coming back and finishing strong."

Despite the loss, Villavaso said he was pleased with the Terriers season and added that they will won't forget the contributions of their 20 seniors.

"Our kids had a great season," Villavaso said. "We won 11 games straight in a row. It's been awhile since a Vandebilt team has done that. We've got a lot to build on for next year. The senior class was just awesome. I'm just proud of the guys. I'm proud of their season. I wish the Neville Tigers well. You always hope that the guy that took you out wins it all, so I'll be rooting for the Neville Tigers here on out."

And after playing his final game of his high school career, McGuire said the Terriers have no reason to be disappointed with how their season ended.

"It was a pleasure to play with these guys," McGuire said. "I won't hang my head for nothing. Winning 11 straight games after that was a good season for us. I'm pretty sure these guys are going to come out here next year and keep this thing going. I'm going to come back and always support these guys."