The John Curtis Patriots’ 29-game winning streak had just coming to a screeching halt in a 27-13 loss to St. Thomas Aquinas on Friday night in the second game of the Allstate Sugar Bowl Prep Classic.
Coach John Curtis, quickly gathered his team in an area just pass the tunnel leading from the field.
“Welcome to the world of tough competition,” he told his players, the faces of many of them wearing the extreme hurt of having been dominated by a program that is one of the best in Florida.
“I don’t have any time to feel down. I don’t have any time to get upset. I only have time to work. We have to correct some things, and that starts (Saturday) at 8 o’clock.”
J.T. Curtis was obviously disgusted with his team’s inability to take advantage of opportunities and to create them, a thought unfathomed for his program, which has won 25 state titles in his 44 years as coach.
The Patriots, who were the consensus prep football national champion last season, trailed 14-0 at halftime and 24-0 early in the fourth quarter. Curtis didn’t score until Dontae Jones’ 20-yard run with 9:37 left in the game.
“We had a lot of opportunities to make plays, and we just didn’t make them,” said Patriots coach J.T. Curtis. “The whole first half was about our not taking advantage of opportunities.”
Asked about the 29-game winnings streak coming to an end, he said, “We knew we were playing a really good football team, and we knew couldn’t make a lot of mistakes if we were going to win this game. We didn’t do that.”
The Patriots were uncharacteristic from the start, although J.T. Curtis said Aquinas, a Class 7A power that won national titles in 2008 and ’10, had a lot to do with that.
Curtis had a first down on the Raiders’ 47 at the 7:13 mark of the first quarter and ended up punting. In the second quarter, the Patriots drove to STA’s 23, but quarterback Abby Touzet fumbled.
The proverbial nail in the coffin came at 7:17 of the third quarter. Although the Patriots were trailing 21-0, they had begun to show a lot of vigor. Curtis had driven from its 24 to the STA 1 in nine plays, doing it the Patriots way with rock-hard running plays.
However, after getting to the 1, starting running back George Moriera, one of the Patriots top players and a team leader, fumbled.
“That took a lot out of them,” said Aquinas coach Rocco Casullo. “But that’s football.”
Aquinas, which has won five consecutive out-of-state games against tough competition, made the most of its opportunities, however, and also created them.
The Raiders started a drive from their 47 with 1:32 left in the first half, and went 53 yards in five plays, with Wade Freebeck throwing a 31-yard touchdown pass to Devante Peete.
Then, with a drive helped by Curtis penalties for roughing the passer and grabbing the facemask, Aquinas went 66 yards in six plays, capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by standout running back Mardre London for a 14-0 lead.
London then delivered a big blow, scoring on a 61-yard run early in the third quarter.
“Our coaches challenged the running backs at halftime,” London said. “They said we weren’t doing our jobs.”
Casullo said the Raiders’ lines certainly. London finished with 101 yards on 12 carries and Deltron Sands 68 yards on 13 carries.
Standout James Raekwon led Curtis with 84 yards on 12 carries. The Patriots’ vaunted option was held to 156 yards, 3.2 yards per carry. Curtis fumbled three times, losing two.
“We didn’t let them have their way with the dive option, with the veer,” he said. “The play of our defensive line was the key to this win. They controlled the game.”
He said ending Curtis’ streak was big for his program.
“This was a good win for us,” said Aquinas coach Rocco Casullo. “Our coaches did a good job all week. We had a bye week to prepare, and the kids were very focused. But we have some big games coming up.”
Curtis does, too.
“Our next game is against a very physical East St. John team, then we play Karr and St. Aug,” J.T. Curtis said.