For all the national attention Leonard Fournette
has generated among college coaches and fans, there is no greater interest in the junior running back than at St. Augustine (New Orleans)
, which Fournette has led into the Class 4A quarterfinals of the state playoffs.
Fournette was as captivating as ever last week in the 10th-seeded Purple Knights' 40-14 victory over seventh-seeded St. Thomas More (Lafayette). Fournette quieted a hostile road crowd and thrilled his supporters in rushing 28 times for 354 yards and three touchdowns in the Purple Knights' regional — second-round — victory.
He punctuated his performance with an 18-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown run in which he fought off several defenders, including one who had a hand on his facemask.
"I've seen an awful lot of great running backs in my years, and I'll tell you he's as good as any of them," St. Thomas More coach Jim Hightower said after the game. "A lot of times we were hitting him with two, three and four guys and he didn't go down. He's got drive. He's just a monster. He's really special."
St. Augustine (9-3) jumped to a 21-7 halftime lead thanks in part to Fournette, who generated eight first-quarter points. He scored on a two-point conversion run after Ashton Hilliard returned an interception on the first play from scrimmage for a 36-yard touchdown. Fournette later scored on a 5-yard run.
The third quarter featured Fournette running for a 40-yard touchdown. That paved the way for his dramatic 18-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown run.
Fournette said the contest was "a revenge game," given that St. Augustine lost to St. Thomas More in Fournette's freshman season. The Purple Knights were eliminated in the regionals last year.
"We had an ‘X' on our chests," he said in response to the Purple Knights' underdog status. "We had to prove everybody wrong."
Those who know Fournette best didn't doubt him, and the 6-foot-1, 225-pounder reaffirmed their belief in him.
He increased his season rushing total to better than 2,000 yards after having finished the regular season as the New Orleans Metro Area rushing leader with 141 carries for 1,553 yards and 24 touchdowns. This, too, despite sitting out the regular-season finale.
Among the elite in a talent-rich region, Fournette was named the New Orleans Metro Area Prep Player of the Week by various organizations. He will also be among those honored at the Greater New Orleans Quarterback Club year-end luncheon on Dec. 10.
Until then, there are much more pressing matters such as St. Augustine's stern quarterfinal test against second-seeded Karr (New Orleans) on Friday.
As usual, much of the focus will center on Fournette, as others wait and watch in anticipation of what he will do next.