John Curtis enjoys playoff redemption against Byrd with 35-14 victory

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METARIE – John Curtis and C.E. Byrd have small but significan bit of recent history between one another on the gridiron.

The programs faced off in the state quarterfinals in 2020 while dealing with plenty of challenges that season. Byrd edged Curtis, 14-13, at Lee Hedges Stadium in Shreveport.

Two years later, both teams battled in the trenches again but this time Byrd had to make the trip down south to the New Orleans area for the LHSAA Division I Select state quarterfinals.

The No. 3 seed Patriots outplayed the No. 6 seed Yellow Jackets in a 35-14 victory Friday night at Joe Yenni Stadium.

“I thought our defense would limit their big plays. Our defense played extremely well overall,” said John Curtis head coach J.T. Curtis. “It was a one-point loss two years ago and it was disappointing. It was a miserable ride home and it cost us a chance at a championship. You can’t play with revenge. You got to execute your offense and defense giving you a chance to win.”

John Curtis (10-2) indeed set the tone on the opening drive, going 66 yards in three plays to jump out on top. Marlon Prout scampered for a 42-yard touchdown giving the Patriots a quick 7-0 lead.

Byrd bounced back when Lake Lambert hit Jackson Dufrene for a 50 yard pass to the Curtis 8-yard line to set up Desmond Simmons for an 8-yard touchdown to tie the game.

The Curtis defense stepped up to the plate, and the result was a lead the Patriots would not relinquish.

Byrd’s Devon Strickland fumbled the pitch and Jermal Callio was on the spot at the Jackets 5-yard line for the scoop-and-score. The Patriots again had a lead at 14-7.

Next up, Curtis made a key special teams play. Justin Horne blocked a 55-yard field goal try by Abram Murray to set up a short field for the offense. Prout turned on the jets for a 39-yard touchdown to make it 21-7.

Patriots quarterback Dagan Bruno added a big pass to his team’s collection of diverse first half highights with a 61-yard touchdown to Michael Turner. Curtis led 28-7 at the half.

“We did a good job starting the first drive with a touchdown and getting momentum early in the game,” said Prout. “We got to keep our heads in the game and don’t let anyone else talk us out our game.”

Byrd (8-4) tried to make a game of it with a one-yard touchdown by Tyler Nichols to draw closer at 28-14 but the Patriots put the game out of reach with a 79-yard drive taking 13 plays and melting the clock. Bruno scored a one-yard touchdown to finish off the victory.

“The offensive line gave a good push when we ran the ball hard and the pass game was there as well,” said Bruno. “They have played well all year and we’re riding behind them.”

Curtis finished with 422 yards of total offense including 332 rushing yards. Prout led the Patriots with six carries for 85 yards and two touchdowns. Bruno finished 3 of 6 passing for 91 yards plus nine carries for 44 yards and two touchdowns. Kaheam Smith added seven carries for 73 yards. Jason Gabriel Jr. had 12 carries for 68 yards.

Byrd finished with over 250 yards of total offense that included 180 rushing yards. Lambert led the Yellow Jackets with 17 carries for 76 yards while completing two of his six passes for 53 yards and one interception. Devon Strickland finished with five carries for 52 yards and a touchdown.

“This a great senior class and they are very competitive. They always ready to work and represent the school well,” said C.E. Byrd head coach Stacey Ballew. “If we don’t give up the big plays in the first half, we’re right there with them. Big plays are what kills you in all levels.”

John Curtis moves on to the Division I semifinals on the road against No. 2-seeded Catholic of Baton Rouge at BREC Memorial Stadium next Friday night.

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