John Curtis stages second half rally, holds off Catholic in state football semifinals

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BATON ROUGE – On a beautiful Friday night, the No. 2 seeded Catholic High Bears hosted a familiar foe in the No. 3 seeded John Curtis Patriots.

This playoff meeting was the fourth between the two schools with Catholic holding a 2-1 advantage going into the night.

Now it’s all tied up.

The Patriots rallied from behind to take a 24-21 victory over the host Bears at Memorial Stadium in the LHSAA Division I Select semifinals.

However, it did not seem like Curtis was primed for an upset after one half of play when Catholic held a 14-3 lead.

The third quarter saw the scoreboard and momentum change rather quickly. Curtis opened the half with a scoring drived capped off when Marlon Prout found the end zone from 21 yards out at the 6:36 mark of quarter. Jaden Alphonso’s point after followed the 10-play, 80-yard drive.

Then came the special teams moment that changed the game for good. The Patriots kicked off to Catholic, and LSU commit Shelton Sampson mishandled the ball. Curtis recovered at the Catholic 22 yard line. A couple of plays later, the Patriots took advantage of the gift when Aaron Johnson scored on a 19-yard run that out Curtis ahead, 17-14.

“We were down 14-3 at half. We did some things good in the first half and we needed to do them a little better,” said Patriots head coach J.T. Curtis.

Curtis quarterback Dagan Bruno lofted a deep pass to Tyler Mitchell for a 53-yard touchdown that gave the Patriots a 24-14 lead with 7:58 left in the fourth quarter.

“The play action pass was used for us and we ran the ball effectively in the offense,” explained Curtis.

With their backs against the wall, the Bears kicked started their offense against and answered the Curtis touchdown with one of their own. Daniel Beale connected with Sampson for a 29-yard score to make it 24-21 with 6:02 to go.

Led by a steady pass rush, Curtis played stellar defense down the stretch and held off Catholic on a pair of possessions to seal the victory.

“I’m disappointed for my team and hats off to John Curtis as they outplayed us tonight. That can happen with two great teams on any given night. There were some critical plays down the stretch that gave John Curtis the advantage,” said Catholic head coach Davis Simoneaux.

Early on, the Bears appeared headed to the title game with a chance to repeat. Beale and Sampson combined for a 12-yard touchdown pass with 7:03 to go in the first quarter to cap a nine-play, 64-yard drive.

Curtis scored on a 31 yard field goal by Alphonso. The nine-play, 67-yard march made it 7-3 but Catholic had answers defensively for the rest of the opening half.

Curtis made Catholic (11-2) move the ball via long, sustained possessions but the Bears finished off a nine-play, 80-yard march to take momentum into the locker room. Beale hit Daniel Harden in the end zone from five yards out with under a minute to go in the first half for a 14-3 Bears advantage.

Far from daunted, the Patriots earned their first trip to the state finals since 2018 with their complete second half performance.

“I’m real proud of my team. We got a quality win versus a quality team,” Curtis said. “This is what high school football should be about.”

John Curtis (11-2) will face their district rival, No. 13 seed Brother Martin, who defeated Carencro 55-24 in the other D1 Select semifinal. The rematch is slated for 7 p.m. Saturday, December 10 in the Caesars Superdome. The Patriots won the earlier regular season meeting, 23-14.

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Randy Pistorius

Reporter

Randy Pistorius is a lifelong resident of South Louisiana and is currently working in the communications field in the Baton Rouge Metropolitian Area. Randy’s start in journalism came while still in high school at De La Salle in New Orleans and that carried with him to Southeastern Louisiana University where he wrote for the Lions Roar and also worked in…

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