Westgate silences critics, knocks off Neville to advance to LHSAA football semifinals
Westgate heard all the noise leading up to the Friday night's Non-select Division I quarterfinal playoff showdown with Neville.
Too small. Too soft. Westgate couldn't play with Neville.
Much of that banter was rooted in Westgate's shortcomings against Neville during the 2019 and 2020 playoffs. But Westgate is the reigning Class 4A state champion. Yes, Ryan Antoine's team had its share of struggles during the regular season and, with a revamped LHSAA playoff format, ended up a No. 10 seed in the Non-Select Division I bracket.
But Friday against Neville was about proving Westgate wasn't a flash in the pan. The homestanding Tigers (10-3) from New Iberia took down the Tigers from Monroe, 21-10, to make their return to the semifinals to meet No. 3 Destrehan next week.
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"Our guys were hit with a slap in the face all week," Antoine said. "We heard we were too small, that we were soft, that we couldn't play with these guys. We took some things on the chin with these guys they beat us the three years that I've been here, just pounded us. We attribute this win to what we do in the weight room, in our program and our guys were ready for this moment."
For Neville (8-3), it was another disappointing close to another promising season.
"It sucks losing in the playoffs," Neville coach Jeff Tannehill said. "It's a small senior class, tough as nails. I hate for those seniors but when you can't get it in the end zone, it's hard to win.
"We didn't make enough plays tonight. They got an outstanding defense; Coach Antoine does a great job. Good luck to them."
With stars like Westgate five-star safety and Texas commit Derek Williams and Neville three-star pass rusher Matthew Fobbs-White, defense was going to take billing and both units lived up to the hype. But budding prospects stole the show – like Westgate sophomore safety Amari Simon, who picked off Neville quarterback Brooks Anzalone twice.
Westgate's defense finished with three interceptions as Neville couldn't break through for much of the night.
"We knew that one extra play was going to count but we knew we had to come out and play," Williams said. "(Simon) surprised me but I knew he could do it. He's a young guy coming up."
To accompany the forced turnovers, Westgate also surrendered only 124 yards to Neville to protect its lead in the second half.
Neville's defense, led by Fobbs-White and the third-down pass rush, limited Westgate to 245 yards all game. But the difference was Westgate finished drives, as quarterback Jaboree Antoine had two TD passes.
Williams' 41-yard touchdown run put the game on ice.
"They kept asking me, like, 'The gloves? Are you sure you can run it?'" said Williams, who was sporting Texas Longhorn gloves during the game. "I said, I got it. I know me, I know I was going to make a big play when we need it."
"They took the run game away so we knew we were going to have throw the ball a little to have a chance. Jaboree started out early and we got up early. We told the defensive guys at this point in the season, defense wins championships," Antoine said. "You got to go out there and you got to go play.
"You're up 14, that's got to be enough. Our program is prepared for these moments."