December 12, 2008

John Curtis grinds its way to state title

NEW ORLEANS, La. - If you go to a River Ridge (La.) John Curtis football game expecting to see fireworks, you are going to come away disappointed. But if you would like to see a clinical display of fundamental, assignment football - and winning football - then have a seat and settle in.

At John Curtis Christian it is all about the veer option. Head coach J.T. Curtis might as well have written the book on the system. He has perfected the inside veer and the outside veer and a few choice pass plays off of it. While running essentially a two-play playbook, John Curtis grinds away a few yards at a time, never puts itself in bad situations and doesn't give up the big play on defense.

The mentality may put a few casual fans to sleep but before you know it, you look up at the scoreboard and the clock is winding down on a 35-14 victory, a 14-1 season and a fifth consecutive Louisiana State Championship.

That was the scene on Friday evening when John Curtis defeated Evangel Christian in the kickoff game of the Louisiana State Championships at the Louisiana Superdome. The win typified the disciplined football at which John Curtis excels. Though they only outgained Evangel 258-228, the Patriots did not turn the ball over, had one special teams touchdown and converted 7 of 13 third downs and 2 of 2 fourth downs.

Three-star prospect Kenny Cain led the methodical ground game for the Patriots, picking up 78 yards on 15 carries and three touchdowns. More important than his end-of-game total was that he had zero negative yards and consistently put Curtis in a position to convert easy third down opportunities.

The system that Coach Curtis institutes is an offensive lineman's dream. Lining up in a four-point stance on every play, a physical-minded lineman is afforded the opportunity to pin his ears back and out-muscle the man in front of him. There is not a lot of finesse involved and that's exactly the way 2010 offensive tackle Luke Charpentier likes it.

"It's awesome dude," said Charpentier following the big win. "They put some big guys in front of me. I knew they were going to be big but I just stepped up and played my style of football. Our offense, they gotta beat us up front, every team we play and they couldn't do it.

"We knew they were a good football team but we knew they couldn't matchup to our style of offense."

Contrast in styles

While John Curtis runs the veer option like clockwork, the Evangel passing attack is usually run with the same kind of efficiency and success. On Friday night, John Curtis had the Evangel offense off-balance all game long.

Dez Duron - the state's leading passer - never could get his timing down. He was pressured all night long and had trouble finding his second and third receiving options. Duron was sacked three times for 30 yards, he threw two interceptions and he never looked comfortable in the pocket.

A lot of the struggles that Duron had on the night can be attributed to the relentless Curtis defensive front. Junior nose guard Walker Ashburn showed a great motor and never allowed Duron to get comfortable. He was met in the backfield all evening by senior Tulane commit Mike Henry, junior defensive end Seth Jones and junior linebacker Dex Thibodeaux.

Ashburn's five tackles for loss and two sacks led the game and helped keep John Curtis in unmanageable situations.

The silver lining

Despite the loss, Evangel has plenty to be optimistic about for the future. Jermauria Rasco piled up 10 tackles, one for a loss, earning him the Evangel MVP award. He is part of a loaded 2011 class in Louisiana and is one of the top early names at defensive line in the 2011 class nationally.

Evangel also has two very good wide receivers that will be returning next season. Junior Thomas Bridgewater has legitimate track speed and good size at 6-foot-2. On Friday night, Bridgewater caught 3 passes for 38 yards.

Bridgewater's classmate, Eric Thomas may be the top recruit in the 2010 class for Evangel. He has a similar build to Bridgewater at 6-foot-1, 170 pounds and he showed terrific hands and ball control all evening. He ended the night with three catches for 50 yards and one impressive touchdown grab. The Evangel passing attack should be alive and well in 2009.

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