The old saying that matchups never live up to expectations was once again proven wrong by the state Class 2A football semifinal playoff game at Many High School’s John W. Curtis Stadium Friday night between district rivals Many and Avoyelles.
It was billed as a heavyweight fight and turned out to be exactly that, all the way down to the last play of the game. After a contest with eight lead changes, the Many Tigers escaped with a 40-38 win to punch their ticket to the state finals in the Caesars Superdome.
That championship contest is next Friday afternoon in New Orleans at 3:30 against Amite, who the Tigers edged on the road in the semifinals 34-30 last year before winning the 2020 state championship.
After tailgating all over the Many High campus and an exciting, extended fireworks show, fans settled in for what will go down in history as one of the most physical and intense games ever played here. If you’re faint-hearted and can’t handle pressure, then this one wasn’t for you. Many’s two victories this season over Avoyelles have been by a combined total of 6 points.
After a rare four-down stop of Avoyelles to open the game, the Tigers took over at the Mustangs 33-yard line and scored on their first play when London Williams broke clear just 1:56 into the first quarter. Many led 6-0 after a failed two-point attempt.
Avoyelles rallied with a methodical 4:01-long drive of 71 yards, capped off by a 20-yard touchdown run from Travon Prator. Jervez Wright added the two-point conversion to put the Mustangs up 8-6 with 5:49 to go in the first quarter.
Behind Williams and Jeremiah James, the Tigers moved the ball down to the Mustangs; 21 yard line. With 57 seconds left in the first, Jack Deville managed to get wide open over the middle and Tackett Curtis hit him with a 21-yard touchdown pass to put the Tigers back in front 12-8 after the conversion was missed.
The Mustangs’ next possession also ended up in the end zone. The drive featured a 39-yard run by Joshua Williams and a 23-yard Wright run. Prator again scored, this time from 2 yards out and another Wright conversion made the score 16-12 in favor of the Mustangs.
The Tigers needed only two plays on the ensuing possession. After the routinely unsuccessful onside kick off from Avoyelles, Many started at the 50 yard line. Williams lost yardage on the first play, but scampered 52 yards for a touchdown on the next one. James added a two-pointer, pushing the Tigers in front 20-16 with 10:09 still left in the second quarter.
Avoyelles responded with a series that consisted of 10 plays winding 5:13 off the clock. Another methodical drive ended with Prator scoring his third touchdown of the first half, this one from 5 yards out. The conversion failed, but the Tigers trailed 22-20.
Many’s reply covered 65 yards. The drive started on the Tigers’ 35 and behind four carries from James and two from Williams, the last one a 34-yard touchdown run by Williams, the Tigers were back in front. The conversion failed but the Tigers led 26-22 going into the half.
By then, Williams had already accounted for 132 yards on 7 carries and three touchdowns while James had 8 carries for 51 yards. Avoyelles had 175 rushing yards in the first half.
Just 36 seconds into the second half, the Tigers roared again. Williams scored his fourth touchdown with 11:24 left in the third from 5 yards out after the Tigers received great field position thanks two two different penalties on the second-half kickoff. Curtis added the conversion, making the Many advantage 34-22.
Avoyelles answered with a 7-play drive covering 80 yards. Wright scored from 31 yards away on a run and with Joshua Williams adding the conversion, the margin tightened to 34-30 with 7:45 left in the third. That was the final score of the first meeting between the two teams Oct. 15.
Many was forced into the game’s only punt on the ensuing series. Avoyelles then did what Avoyelles does. The Mustangs took 8:29 off the clock on a 16-play drive that was capped by a Nick Casugay 23-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Smith. With a two-point conversion, the Mustangs led 38-34 with 9:35 left in the game.
Many wasted little time in getting the lead back, starting on its own 39-yard line,
On the second play, Williams exploded on a 58-yard scoring run around the left end. Although the conversion failed, the Tigers went up 40-38. The touchdown for Williams was his fifth of the game.
The defending state champs needed to come up with a defensive stop and after 11 plays they did just that. A fourth-down incomplete pass turned the ball back over to the Tigers with 3:19 left in the game.
A brief Tiger series ended on downs at the Mustangs’ 2-yard line, giving the visitors one last chance with only 1:43 left on the clock. After a couple of running plays and a pair of incompletions, the game ended on a Jamarlyn Garner interception to seal the victory for the Tigers and earn their third straight appearance in a state championship game.
Avoyelles ran 72 plays for 396 yards, while Many ran less than half that total (31) but had a much better per-play average, posting 350 yards (11.3 per snap).
The Tigers (13-1) will hit the road next week for New Orleans for the rematch against Amite (a 35-26 winner over Jonesboro-Hodge) in the Superdome.
“We’re going to New Orleans. We’re not going just to eat beignets and gumbo,” said head coach Jess Curtis. “We’re going to win a state championship.”
10:04 M – London Williams 33-yard run, conversion missed, Many 6-0
5:49 A – Travon Prator 20-yard run, Jervez Wright two-point conversion good, Avoyelles 8-6
0:57 M -Tackett Curtis 21-yard pass to Jack Deville, conversion no good, Many 12-8
11:04 A – Prator 2-yard run, conversion good, Avoyelles 16-12
10:09 M – Williams 52-yard run, Jeremiah James conversion, Many 20-16
4:48 A – Prator 5-yard run, conversion failed, Avoyelles 22-20
1:57 M – Williams 34-yard run, conversion failed, Many 26-22
11:24 M – Williams 5-yard run, Curtis conversion, Many 34-22
7:45 A – Wright 31-yard run, Joshua Williams conversion, Many 34-30
9:35 A – Nick Casugay 23 yard pass to Jalen Smith, conversion good, Avoyelles 38-34
9:07 M – Williams 58-yard run, conversion missed, Many 40-38
M – Williams 12-205, 5 TDs; James 13-127, McLendon 1-minus 3
A – Williams 24-133, Wright, 23-127, Prator, 13-68, 3 TD’s, Sampson 1-0
M – Curtis 1-3, 21 yards, 1 TD
A – Casugay 3-7, 58 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception
M – Deville 1-21, 1 TD
A – Smith 1-23, 1 TD, Wright 1-30, Prator 1-5
M – Curtis 13, Montgomery 8, Carheel 8
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