John Curtis looks to end rare title drought
With 26 state championships, 558 career victories and an astonishing 90 percent winning percentage, J.T. Curtis is clearly the most accomplished head coach in Louisiana prep football history and remains second in the nation in the most wins in the history of the United States. Curtis is 26-9 in state championship games and he has guided his Patriots to 42 consecutive state playoff appearances. Despite still being very active, Curtis was inducted into the National Federation of High School Associations Hall of Fame in 2015.
The Patriots have enjoyed unparalleled success and 2016 produced another milestone as John Curtis claimed its first Catholic League championship in just its second year since joining the district by posting a 6-0 mark.
Unfortunately, the Curtis season ended as it did in 2015, losing in the state semifinals. When you add the championship game loss to Jesuit in 2014 in Division I, it has been a three-year drought in state championships for the Patriots, the longest such drought since 1974, before Curtis won its first-ever state title in 1975.
To say that Curtis is hungry and motivated would be accurate, perhaps even an understatement. To say that the Patriots are talented enough and prepared well to end the drought in 2017 would be accurate.
“It’s been different but we have had an opportunity to compete for it,” Curtis said. “The teams that we’ve lost to have won it or reached the final. We’re right there. The teams we’ve lost to were very good. We’ve competed at a high level, as we want to do every year. You have to recognize that you’ve lost to outstanding teams.”
The Patriots return 12 starters, including seven on offense.
Sophomore quarterback Collin Guggenheim (6-0, 190) is back. He gave Curtis something it had not had in recent years—speed under center and the ability to hurt people with the outside veer attack. Guggenheim passed for 600 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 470 yards and 13 touchdowns while splitting time at quarterback.
Senior running backs Marquese Albert (5-9, 185) Darryan Washington (5-11, 190) and Malik Wells (6-0, 215) provide speed and experience while senior Ernest Jones (5-8, 175( and freshman Choncee Crum give the position great depth. Albert rushed for over 900 yards and nine touchdowns a year ago while Washington rushed for over 400 yards and three touchdowns.
“We’ve got depth at running back, we’re starting to mature in our offensive line and our quarterback returns,” Curtis said. “We feel like we have good speed at the receiver spot and a big tight end who can block and catch. I’m hoping that can balance us out a little more and people will not be able to crowd the line-of-scrimmage as they have in the past. If they do, we hope we can make them pay with the ball over the top.”
Senior wide receiver Tyrone Legette (6-0, 185) is the son of the former New Orleans Saints player of the same name. Legette has great speed and made many big plays a year ago. Senior Troy Taylor (6-0, 185) is solid while senior Donnell Jones (6-3, 190) is talented and will contribute as well. Legette had 22 catches for 505 yards and six touchdowns last season.
Blue-chip recruit Glenn Beal (6-6, 255) returns at tight end. Beal is a very good blocker in the run game and is an asset in the passing game.
Up front, the Patriots return three starters, including senior center Gideon Daniels (6-2, 265), senior guard Rory Thompson (5-10, 205) and senior tackle Cade Blaylock (6-4, 290). Senior guard Daniel Guillie (6-1, 225) and sophomore tackle Rudolph Bolds (6-1, 275) are the other starters.
Five starters return on defense.
Sophomore Angelo Anderson (6-4, 265) is the lone returning starter up front and he has a great future. He will be joined by junior Colby Orgeron (6-6, 220), along with senior Kaleb Jordan.
The linebackers are big and physical. On the outside, senior Jay Curtis (6-1, 225) is back and packs a wallop. The two-sport star is joined by fellow baseball star Cade Beloso (6-0, 225), who has committed to play baseball at LSU. The inside linebackers are junior Jaden Barfield (6-1, 225) and senior Mike Romano (6-0, 215).
In the secondary, senior Cade Comeaux (6-1, 185) returns at free safety while senior Brandon Davis (6-0, 185), another two-sport star, is back at one corner spot and junior Donald Clay (6-0, 185) returns to play the other corner. Junior Brenton Clofer () is the strong safety and senior Rhyen Gilmore (6-0, 190) will play the nickel spot.
“The big question that we have to answer is at our linebacker spot,” Curtis said. “We’ve got all new inside linebackers. I think we played six or seven in our jamboree. We’re trying to find ourselves before we get into the district. We’ll find out with the teams we’re playing. Our secondary is very solid. We should be fine up front as well.”
Senior Brock Wunstell (5-10, 215) is the kicker and punter while Albert, Davis, freshman Corey Wren (5-10, 180) and sophomore Shane Goins (5-7, 175) are ready to handle kick and punt return duties.
As you might imagine, the Patriots will play a very difficult schedule.
Curtis opens at Behrman Stadium against defending 5A state champion Landry-Walker on Sept. 1 before traveling to Independence Stadium in Shreveport to take Grayson, GA in the annual Battle on the Border. The Rams are a powerhouse team, ranked seventh in the nation by MaxPreps. Week three finds Curtis in Baton Rouge to take on Division II power Parkview Baptist.
“We play three recent state champions in the first three games,” Curtis said. “The question I get asked is who made the schedule. That’s a difficult question to answer because obviously, it was me. They look at me like they thought it was somebody else that stupid. We play good teams. We always have. The team out of Georgia won a 7A state championship last year. All that will do is get our guys in a position to mature and grow up quickly. I have no problem playing good people to help us compete in our tough district.”
District 9-5A play opens on Sept. 22 against Brother Martin at Tad Gormley Stadium before the Patriots play another powerful team in Warren Easton in a non-district game on Sept. 29 at The Shrine on Airline.
After hosting Jesuit, Curtis takes on St. Augustine on Oct. 13 and faces Holy Cross on Oct. 20. Week nine is a showdown with Rummel at The Shrine on Airline. The regular season finale is at Hoss Memtsas Stadium against Shaw on Nov. 3.
In 2015, Rummel ended the Patriots’ season in the semifinals before the favored Raiders were upset in the final by Catholic of Baton Rouge. In 2016, Curtis ended Rummel’s season before losing to Evangel in the semifinals.
“That is a different approach that we need to adjust to and we’re working at that. The district championship in this league means so much. You invest so much effort into the regular season game and then you play one or two again in the playoffs and it is intense and they are all good, well coached teams. It really is a completely different mindset than it’s ever been in the past. We have to make the adjustment. There’s no doubt there is a danger of guarding against a letdown the following week from being too emotionally high against a rival.”
While Evangel has to be considered the favorite to repeat as state champion in Division I, John Curtis looks like the primary challenger to the Eagles as the Patriots try to win their first state title in Division I.
“I think on paper, and certainly if you look at returners, you would have to go with Evangel as the favorite,” Curtis said. “I think that’s a fair assessment across the board. By the same token, I think there are a lot of good teams in Division I that on any given night, could have their night and certainly beat anybody. I think that will be the challenge of this playoff system. There will be no weak sisters in it. On any given Friday night, you could go home.”
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