Karr, future Catholic League rivals getting acquainted with one another
Edna Karr High School doesn’t begin competing in District 9-5A until next fall.
But the Cougars and some of their future district rivals have already gotten a close-up look at one another since the move became official last month.
Karr’s boys basketball team has played four games against future district rivals during the pre-district schedule. It defeated Jesuit and Brother Martin before beating Curtis and Martin again in the Country Day Classic last week.
“At Karr we’re not running away from any competition,” said boys basketball coach Taurus Howard, who doubles as athletic director. “We actually encourage that, so it’s going to be a plus for us.”
District 9-5A – which will continue to also include Archbishop Rummel, Holy Cross and St. Augustine – is routinely referred to as the Catholic League, but the inclusion of a public school such as Karr or a non-Catholic school is not unprecedented. Chalmette, Grace King and others have preceded the Cougars as non-Catholic schools in the venerable district.
“I’m happy and thankful that the Catholic League accepted us into their program,” Howard said. “It speaks to the fact that they have a lot of respect for us and they know that Edna Karr is a quality program.
“We play a few Catholic League teams each year. The only difference is you’re going to play all of them now. We look to play the competitive, the tough, the more disciplined teams and the Catholic schools have that.”
The Catholic League teams also have sought out the Cougars for non-district competition in boys basketball and football.
“It’s going to make all of us a little better,” Jesuit coach Chris Jennings said. “I think it’s going to make it a stronger league for sure.”
The LHSAA’s announcement that Karr would be moving up from Class 4A to Division I brought immediate reaction in regards to football because the Cougars have won five state titles in the state’s second-highest classification in the last 10 years, including four straight (2017-19).
Karr and Curtis have played each of the last three seasons. The Patriots won 42-39 in 2019, and Karr won 36-33 in 2020 and 33-19 in the season that just concluded.
“We’ve been playing Curtis every year,” said Howard, who also serves as defensive coordinator on Brice Brown’s football staff. “We play (long-time 9-5A member) St. Aug every year. We just value playing good people – trying to put the best product out there when we play.”
Karr’s entrance into the Catholic League is the most prominent redistricting change since Curtis joined the league in 2015.
“We hoped that we would bring another dimension to it – that we would bring another competitive program and another competitive school to it. I think we have done that,” said Patriots football coach J.T. Curtis, who also serves as headmaster of the school his father founded.
Curtis said there was some concern within the district about the Cougars’ arrival because “they didn’t think Karr presented a whole package of sports programs.”
“The Catholic League is known for volleyball and baseball for sure,” Howard said. “It’s definitely going to raise the level of play for our baseball and volleyball programs and our coaches and our kids understand that. We’ve talked about it.”
Curtis has added soccer and expanded its swimming program since joining the Catholic League.
Karr’s basketball program hasn’t had the success of its football program, but it has been successful of late, reaching the playoff quarterfinals in 2018 and the regionals in 2017 and 2021. The Cougars are 13-2 after following their victories against Curtis and Brother Martin with wins against St. Thomas More and Catholic High to claim the Country Day title.
“They’re not far behind football,” Jennings said.
Karr’s entrance into the Catholic League for at least the next two academic years coincides with Archbishop Shaw’s departure to Class 4A due to smaller enrollment.
“I think I speak on behalf of all the Catholic coaches when I say we’re disappointed to see Archbishop Shaw leave,” Brother Martin basketball coach Chris Biehl said, noting that the 13-2 Eagles are one of the district favorites as the beginning of Catholic League play looms next week.
“Karr offers a brand of basketball that year in and year out you have to have yourself totally prepared to play them,” said Biehl, whose Crusaders are 15-0 against everyone other than Karr.
“Their athletic department and school as a whole are really well respected academically and athletically,” Curtis boys basketball coach Bill Lewit said of Karr. “You want teams like that – that have shared values – to come into your league, and Karr represents everything that’s good about the Catholic League.”
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Les East is a nationally renowned freelance journalist. The New Orleans area native’s blog on SportsNOLA.com was named “Best Sports Blog” in 2016 by the Press Club of New Orleans. For 2013 he was named top sports columnist in the United States by the Society of Professional Journalists. He has since become a valued contributor for CCS. The Jesuit High…