John Curtis beats Evangel 56-34 in Division I semifinal

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NEW ORLEANS – The beginning of this game was a roller coaster, eventually straightening out by halftime, when the better team had taken control.

Overcoming early struggles was John Curtis, who piled up 391 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns to top Evangel 56-34 in a high-scoring semifinal Division I playoff bout at Joe Yenni Stadium on Friday.

The top-seeded Patriots found themselves down 14-0 after the opening kickoff was returned 89 yards for a touchdown by Jalen Abraham and a 1-yard QB sneak by Blake Shapen, thanks to a Collin Guggenheim fumble.

Curtis responded with a 44-yard run by Shane Goins via a pitch from Guggenheim, but Evangel matched with a 16-yard catch by Abraham. The extra point was blocked, but the Eagles held a 20-7 lead with 1:50 remaining in the first quarter.

Then, something changed for Curtis, because they couldn’t be stopped thereafter.

Guggenheim and Ma’Khi Smith each had two touchdown runs in the second period and the Patriots went on a 28-0 run to close out the first half, taking a 35-20 lead into the break.

“I think it was very tough,” Guggenheim said about the start. “You never want to start a game down 14-0 with the opening kickoff going back for a touchdown and I fumble on my first drive. We gotta clean those things up, but I think the offense bounced back really well, especially for being such a young group, with the majority of our offense being juniors. So, I think we’re finally starting to find the grooves, find the cracks, and starting to gel as one.”

The Patriot quarterback completed 6-of-7 passes for 136 yards and one touchdown, also leading the team in rushing, rumbling for 4 touchdowns and 119 yards on 17 carries.

“I think this team’s ready,” said Guggenheim. “We’re completely different from last year’s team. I feel this year’s team wants it more. We’re hungry. Our chemistry’s better. I think we have a good chance, but we have to get in and get the game plan going and see what happens.”

Curtis now leads the series 7-4 against Evangel, who beat Curtis 27-6 in a 2016 semifinal playoff game, before going on to win the championship against Scotlandville.

“We felt like we were going to be able to move the football,” Curtis head coach JT Curtis said.

“We felt like that coming into it. We’ve moved the ball basically all year long. What we needed to do was just not give up the big play defensively and try to whittle at it a little at a time. I thought we did a really nice job of that. Our quarterback handled the checks at the line of scrimmage really well. The coaches did a great job with some adjustments in our formations that gave them some problems, because they had not seen them before, and I think it was a benefit to us.”

Evangel was limited to only 56 rushing yards in the game, but their quarterback Blake Shapen threw for 227 yards and three touchdowns, completing 22-of-30 passes in the game.

“Our guys started off real good and we struggled thereafter,” Eagles head coach Byron Dawson said. “Hats off to J.T. and his staff. They did a great job. But our guys still fought. They fought till the end. We just got beat by a great team. Our kids will learn from this and will keep working hard.”

Curtis earns a trip to the Mercedes Benz Superdome where they will battle against No. 2 Catholic for the LHSAA Select Division I state championship on December 8th.

ECA 20 0 8 6 — 34
JC 7 28 14 7 — 56

ECA – Jalen Abraham 89-yard kickoff return XP Blocked 6-0 11:49 1Q
ECA – Blake Shapen 1-yard run. 2 pt GOOD. 14-0 7:25 1Q
JC – Shane Goins 44-yard run. KG by Austin McCready 14-7 6:43 1Q
ECA – Jalen Abraham 16-yard catch XP BLOCKED 20-7 1:50 1Q
JC – Collin Guggenheim 2-yard run. KG by McCready 20-14 10:08 2Q
JC – Guggenheim 6-yard run. KG by McCready 21-20 6:42 2Q
JC – Ma’Khi Smith 39-yard run. KG by McCready 28-20 3:56 2Q
JC – Ma’Khi Smith 14-yard run. KG by McCready 35-20 0:29 2Q
ECA – Horatio Ruffins 8-yard catch. 2 pt GOOD to Sloan. 35-28 2:33 3Q
JC – Joel Taylor 52-yard catch. KG by McCready. 42-28 1:51 3Q
JC – Guggenheim 6-yard run. KG by McCready. 49-28 1:06 3Q
JC – Guggenheim 4-yard run. KG by McCready. 56-28 7:59 4Q
ECA – Taumage Sloan 41-yard catch. 2 pt FAILED. 56-34 5:26 4Q

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Jordan Liuzza

WGMB-TV Producer

Born at East Jefferson Hospital, Jordan Liuzza is a Louisiana native who grew up in Metairie, before moving to Destrehan after Hurricane Katrina. Jordan graduated Destrehan High School, class of 2012, and thereafter graduated from LSU, class of 2017, with a B.A. in Communications. Growing up in Metairie, Jordan played park ball at Johnny Bright Playground. At Destrehan High School,…

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