Allstate Sugar Bowl LHSAA Prep Classic Review: QB’s dominate

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Collin Guggenheim
John Curtis QB Collin Guggenheim (#14) capped an outstanding season with a state championship win (Photo: Beau Brune).

Another marathon weekend of high school state championship football games is done. It was a good weekend of some good games, some not-so-good games and some great performances.

Here are my takeaways from the 2018 Allstate Sugar Bowl LHSAA Prep Football Classic:

**The highlight of the classic was the play of quarterbacks. Zachary Clement of Lafayette Christian, Caleb Holstein of St. Thomas More (in a losing cause), Keilon Brown of Zachary, Amani Gilmore of Amite,T.J. Hookfin of Kentwood and John Gordon McKernan of University High were simply superb. Leonard Kelly of Karr, Lance Legendre of Warren Easton and Collin Guggenheim of John Curtis are quite good. Clement has offers from Nicholls and Northwestern and he has a similar skill-set to current Nicholls quarterback Chase Fourcade. Gilmore is committed to Kentucky and he is underrated, an excellent thrower and runner. Gordon McKernan is a solid player and leader and has offers from Arkansas-Monticello and Southern.

Holstein, a junior, has offers from UL-Lafayette, Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss and Cincinnati. Brown, a junior, has offers from Baylor, Louisiana Tech, Southern, Virginia, Nicholls, Northwestern State, UL-Monroe and Prairie View. He throws well enough and has outstanding speed. Legendre has multiple offers, including from Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida State, Oregon State, Houston, Kentucky, Virginia, Memphis, Missouri, Southern Miss, South Alabama, Oklahoma State, Tulane, UL-Lafayette, Texas A&M, Idaho and Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Guggenheim is being monitored by several schools, particularly in-state. Hookfin is a skilled baseball player who could go that route, though he is a very good football player.

**It was good to see former Executive Director Tommy Henry in attendance. Henry presided over the organization and brought it into the 21st century. Henry spent nearly a quarter of a century on the job from 1983-2007, when he retired. He was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame for his fine work. Henry has many skins on the wall with his legacy but one which he will always be remembered for and appreciated for was fending off any potential attempts to split the organization. Henry still feels strongly that the united LHSAA was a much better organization, as were the championships under that format.

**It was nice to see the LHSAA honor Mitch Small, who is retiring after his many years of service to the organization. Small increased sponsorships and was a pleasure to deal with.

**It was even nicer and classier to see the LHSAA honor Bill Curl on the field at halftime of the John Curtis Christian vs. Catholic of Baton Rouge game. Curl was the mastermind, the grandfather of the Classic. He formulated the idea and pitched it after the memorable St. Augustine-Jesuit state championship game in 1978 when the Purple Knights prevailed 13-7 with an announced crowd of over 44,000 fans which may have actually been more.

**The attendance appeared to be good, particularly considering the horrendous noon and 3:30 p.m. start times on Thursday and Friday.

**Once again, the format is a terrible one but what are the alternatives? Previously, there was playing the event over two weekends. In retrospect, that is a better option but it is one which will not be broached again because of the cost of renting the Mercedes-Benz Superdome over two weekends and the sheer logistics of doing so. No school, players, coaches or their fans should be subjected to playing in the biggest game, in the biggest moments of their lives at noon or 3:30 p.m. on a weekday. It is patently unfair.

**Failing re-uniting non-select and select schools as one, the membership should address the ridiculous nine championships that continued to be perpetuated. Clearly, several teams making the finals would never do so under a united front. Without a united organization, the obvious solution is to reduce the number of classes to seven including four non-select and three select classes. It is a real problem when you have schools qualifying for the playoffs and opting not to participate. Blowouts are plentiful in the first round. Then, there is the matter of select schools getting the shaft with absurdly small brackets, multiple byes and multiple rematch games. After all, there are only 55 select schools competing in four classes and one, McKinley, was ineligible this year.

**Going into the classic, I felt University High was the best team in the state in any class. I left the Superdome feeling that John Curtis Christian was the best team with University the second best. This was the best Curtis team since 2013. Karr would be third with Zachary fourth. U-High beat Zachary while Curtis handled Warren Easton during the regular season. Catholic High of Baton Rouge beat Zachary and the Patriots demolished the Bears.

**Amite stars Devonta Lee and Ishmael Sopsher did not disappoint. Lee was be a great player on offense or defense at the next level but he wants to play wide receiver. Sopsher has the physical talent to be an excellent defensive lineman. Trey Palmer of Kentwood was still hindered a bit by injury but his ability is clear.

**Lewis Cook continues to build his resume as one of the greatest coaches in Louisiana history. Cook is now fourth all-time in victories and poised to move into third by the end of next season, surpassing Don Shows behind only J.T. Curtis, Jim Hightower and Red Franklin. Cook has now won five state championships as a coach, tied with former Jesuit star Gernon Brown for sixth in state history.

**Speaking of Curtis and Hightower, they did outstanding jobs once again with Curtis going unbeaten and winning its first state title at the Division I level while Hightower took St. Thomas More to another title game.

**Mike Hollins of University High had perhaps the best individual performance of the weekend, rushing 27 times for 237 yards and four touchdowns as the Cubs outlasted St. Thomas More 55-46 in a record-setting contest.

**Eight records were broken in that epic Division II title game. It was a basketball game on turf. Defense was optional. It was really hopeless.

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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Football Foundation, College…

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