Excellence is expected day in and day out at 3332 Huntlee Drive in Algiers.
The Karr Cougars have a chance to capture an unprecedented fourth straight Class 4A state title among public schools, but repeating isn’t necessarily at the top of the Cougars’ priority list.
“We rarely talk about it,” coach Brice Brown said of the teams’ quest to 4-peat. “Last year is last year and that was the class of 2019. This year is 2020 and this captain group has to lead this team to another state championship if God says the same.”
“We’ve just got to stay humble, the team has to be together and stay together,” said team captain and linebacker Joe Thomas on team’s putting a bullseye on the Cougars. “That’s what we want. If you think you can get inside that ring and deal with us, come at us, we ready.”
The Cougars are never short on bravado or confidence, and their reputations is well-earned. Over the last three seasons, Karr has stacked up a 44-1 record including 27 straight wins while also reaching or winning the state championship in eight of the last nine seasons.
The Cougars never seem to rebuild, they simply retool, and this year’s team has the potential to be just as potent as the last three state champion winners.
Senior leader Leonard Kelly returns under center after a remarkable season last year throwing for over 2,800 yards with 38 touchdowns. The 5-foot-11 signal caller is as accurate and poised as any quarterback in the state, and he’ll have a multitude of weapons at his disposal despite losing several key pieces from last season.
“Even losing the two running backs and Jahii (Howard, last year’s Class 4A MOP) and the receiving corps from last year, I still think everything is going to be the same,” Kelly said. “I’m back and we’re just going to move the ball and do what we do. We’ve got to step up, do our jobs and finish.”
Two receivers primed for breakout seasons are junior Destyn Pazon and sophomore Aaron Anderson, and the Cougars also expect junior Danye Brooks to be a threat as well.
Pazon was named a team captain prior to Tuesday’s practice and was described by assistant coach Norman Randall as “the showstopper.” Anderson showed flashes of his playmaking ability last season and was dominant in Karr’s spring game against John Ehret catching three touchdown passes.
Even with two tailbacks that would go on to play college ball in UTSA’s Ronnie Jackson and Prairie View’s Ahmad Antoine, the Cougars were primarily a passing team, and this year’s squad will likely follow suit.
“Aaron hasn’t been playing a lot of reps this fall camp because we’re trying to save his legs for the opening game against East St. John (in our scrimmage), then Kennedy (in the jamboree), and, of course, Curtis (in Week 1),” explained Brown, who expects Anderson to line up at multiple positions on offense and special teams.
“We’re really catering the offense to our personnel. We want to get him the ball in space along with Destyn, Danye and all those guys who are returning and made big plays for us last year. We’re really banking on our wide receivers to make a lot of plays this year.”
Up front, the Cougars return all five starters, and another player to keep an eye out for is junior running back Kevin Marigny. The 5-foot-8, 160-pounder broke loose for two long runs in Tuesday’s practice, but that likely won’t be the norm for Karr’s opponents this season.
The Cougars have a stout defensive front seven led by Thomas, who arguably made the most impactful play of the last year’s state championship game ripping the football away from Warren Easton’s Jahmal Sam with under two minutes left to help Karr secure a 28-20 victory.
He was among a bevy of players to have a field day in the backfield in Karr’s spring game against Ehret where the Cougars may have very well totaled double-digit sacks.
On the back end, Karr has yet another lockdown corner in place in Arkansas commitment Jamie Vance. Like Pazon, Vance was also named a team captain on Tuesday and the star defensive back said the team’s goal heading into the season is to simply get better each day.
“We preach not getting complacent, winning the day and staying consistent,” Vance said. “If we’re consistent with winning every day, when the season comes we’ll be consistent with winning. If we’re losing the day that means we’re taking one step forward but two steps back. But if we win each day and stay consistent we’ll keep on progressing.”