When John Curtis and Jesuit take the field at Joe Yenni Stadium on Friday night, it’s hard not to be reminded of what happened when these two traditional powers met just 10 months earlier.
Jesuit captured its first state championship in more than five decades with a 17-14 defeat of Curtis, which was making its state-record 35th trip to the title game.
Fast forward to Friday night, neither the Blue Jays nor the Patriots are dwelling on that 2014 championship bout.
Jesuit (2-3, 0-2) and Curtis (3-1, 0-1) are in search of their first Catholic League victories of the season, but fittingly, a familiar foe stands in each other’s way.
Neither side has forgotten about last year’s Division I championship game, but isn’t letting those memories become a distraction before this meeting.
“It’s another district ballgame, and it’s exciting to have Curtis in our league,” Jesuit coach Mark Songy said. “It adds more competition to an already tough league. But that’s a very different football team than we played last December, and we’re definitely different. We haven’t referenced last year’s game other than things they did scheme-wise.”
“I don’t deal with revenge,” Curtis coach J.T. Curtis stated. “It doesn’t work. We never talk about revenge because that’s not how you’re going to consistently perform. Certainly the fans are thinking about the rematch, but this is a completely different Jesuit team and a completely different Curtis team.”
Different was commonly used to describe each team.
Jesuit lost 14 starters from last year’s championship squad and has been forced to grow up quickly on the job.
After a 2-1 start, the Jays have dropped two in a row — against St. Augustine and Holy Cross — the first two-game skid since Songy took over at Jesuit in 2014.
“We’re going back to try and correct mistakes each week, and lately we’ve created fewer mistakes, but they’re costly ones,” Songy said. “Our worst opponent has been ourselves. We’ve had a lot to do with our losses, maybe more so than our opponents. That’s something last year we learned how to fix quickly.”
At this time last year, Jesuit was 4-1 about to enter league play and playing with a certain bravado.
That’s what this year’s team has lacked.
“Right now, we’re struggling a bit to have some of that confidence,” Songy said. “Curtis stands in the way of that now.”
Like their counterpart, the Patriots had to replace 12 starters from their state runner-up team. The team raced out to a 3-0 start, but dropped its District 9-5A debut to Brother Martin 40-37 in overtime.
Curtis understands his first Catholic League win won’t come easy.
“Once that novelty is behind you, you settle into a very competitive district,” Curtis said. “These players, these teams are well-coached, and you’ve got to bring your ‘A’ game or you’ll fall behind the 8 ball.”
Curtis has taken advantage of a bye week to refocus and heal up. As the hype heightens, the preparation remains the same.
“We prepared for Brother Martin the same as we prepared for Jesuit,” Curtis said. “Those players have to take the field and hope for a positive outcome. That’s what our emphasis has always been on.”