John Curtis sophomore Taj Bickham will likely get another interception or two in his prep career.
Chances are, there won’t be a bigger one than the one he picked off Saturday night at Yenni Stadium.
With the game tied at 14 and just 3:11 left, Bickham stepped in front of a Justice McCoy pass and sprinted 35 yards down the visitors sideline for the game-winning touchdown in Curtis’ 21-14 victory over St. Augustine.
Once he picked it off, he liked his chances.
“I kind of saw the quarterback out the corner of my eye, but I thought I had it,” Bickham said about his third interception of the season.
The Patriots, ranked No. 3 in The New Orleans Advocate Large School Super 10 and No. 4 in the LSWA 5A poll, improved to 5-1 and 2-1 in the Catholic League.
Perhaps more importantly, they ended a slump against St. Aug.
The Purple Knights (2-5, 2-2) beat Curtis the past two years and were looking to become the first team to ever beat J.T. Curtis three consecutive years since he took over in 1969.
“I can’ say enough about our defense,” Curtis said. “That was an awfully good football team. They are the best 2-5 team I’ve ever seen. I think it’s because they are starting to buy into coach (Al) Jones and what he is trying to implement. But I can’t say enough about our defense and the way they played.”
Former Curtis linebacker Kenny Young, now a sophomore starter at UCLA, was on the sidelines watching the Patriots keep a usually high-powered offense in check.
Bickham’s touchdown came as St. Aug was looking to stun the Patriots in the fourth quarter just like they did in last year’s 15-13 win.
But the sophomore saved the day.
“Taj has played well for us,” Curtis said. “We wanted to take our shots at interceptions, but we couldn’t take chances on missing them because if we missed them it was six the other way. He had a great break on the ball and took it to the house. Thank goodness.”
The first half was a defensive struggle.
The first score didn’t come until 2:36 left in the half when Devon Benn scored on an 18-yard run. It capped an eight-play, 64-yard drive.
St. Aug answered though, using a hurry-up offense to march 71 yards. McCoy, the metro Nedw Orleans area’s top passer, connected with LSU commitment Jamal Pettigrew for a 2-yard score with 12 seconds left in the half.
Darryan Washington gave Curtis a chance to add a score to close the half with a 52-yard kickoff return that put the ball at the St. Aug. 28.
But Donell Jones’ pass at the end of the half fell incomplete.
Curtis stretched the lead midway through the third quarter, one play after Mason Matherne intercepted a deflected McCoy pass.
On the Patriots’ next play, Brock Hebert connected with Tyrone Legette, who outran the Purple Knights defense for a 41-yard score. It was just the third touchdown pass of the season for the run-happy Patriots.
St. Aug answered again, this time with its defense.
Bomani Brown grabbed a fumble out of the air and sprinted 77 yards to tie it.
But it wasn’t quite enough for St. Aug, which dropped its second straight Catholic League game after starting district play with wins over Jesuit and Brother Martin.
“One week we have offense and no defense, and the next we have defense and no offense,” said Jones, in his first season. “This week it was not enough offense. I can live with the way we played defense tonight. We just have to get consistent. We’re still on the roller coaster.”
Benn finished 121 yards to lead the Patriots, who play Holy Cross next week.
McCoy completed 19 of 32 passes for 126 yards for St. Aug, which plays Thibodaux on Friday.