John Curtis rode a strong special teams performance and its patented running game to a convincing 48-14 victory over District 11-3A foe Lusher at Muss Bertolino Stadium on Friday night.
Patriots running back Dontae Jones finished with 11 carries for 130 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Myles Washington added seven carries for 34 yards and a touchdown and added a 96-yard TD pass to Kerry Buckley in the fourth quarter.
“In the beginning of the year, I struggled a little bit with pitching the ball, and today they made an effort to make sure I pitched it,” Washington said. “I’ve really been working on it all year, and I’m glad to see it finally paying off.”
Patriots defensive back Hunter Dale had a big day on special teams with two returns of 50-plus-yards, including a 53-yard return for a touchdown that gave Curtis (6-1, 2-0) a 34-14 lead and pretty much put the game out of reach for Lusher (4-4, 0-2) late in the third quarter.
“Special teams is big in any game that is kind of rocking back and forth the way this one was in the first half,” Curtis coach J.T. Curtis said. “We needed to make some big plays and special teams was as good a place as any to find them.”
After Lusher quarterback Eli Poche exited with an apparent wrist injury late in the second quarter, Louis Landrum III took over and led the Lions on a six-play, 75-yard drive that ended with Diego Griffin making a highlight-reel catch over one defender and running over another for a 47-yard touchdown.
Griffin finished with a season-high 12 catches for 131 yards and a touchdown.
“This is my senior year, and I told Coach that I really wanted to show what I can do against John Curtis,” Griffin said. “I thought I could have a big effect on the game, but it wasn’t enough.”
Curtis, ranked No. 2 in the Class 3A state poll and No. 1 in The New Orleans Advocate’s Small Schools Super 10, immediately responded with a five-play, 58-yard drive that ended with Jones breaking loose for a 28-yard touchdown run — his second of the first half — giving Curtis a 28-14 lead late in the second quarter.
“You have to give Lusher credit; they came out and gave us a fight, but our guys did a great job of responding,” Curtis said.
After the Patriots downed a punt on the Lusher 1-yard line, the Lions went three-and-out and only punted the ball 17 yards. The Patriots only needed three plays before Devon Benn plunged into the end zone from 6 yards, giving Curtis a 14-7 lead.
After Dale returned a Lusher punt 54 yards, the Patriots offense got to take advantage of another short field. Assisted by a 27-yard run from Jones, the Patriots only needed four plays to go 31 yards, capped by a 3-yard quarterback sneak by Washington for the touchdown. Curtis led 21-7.
“We feel like anytime we get the ball on their side of the 50, we have to put the ball in the end zone,” Washington said. “That’s just our mentality as an offense and we did a good job of that tonight.”
After an interception by Patriots defensive back Brett Salus, Curtis marched 40 yards in seven plays, with Jones capping the drive on a 14-yard touchdown run.
Lusher responded with an 11-play, 77-yard drive that ended with running back Joshua Barney making a defender miss, then cutting up the middle of the field for a 23-yard touchdown run to tie the score at 7 with two minutes left in the first quarter.
Bo Wallace, a Notre Dame commitment and ESPN’s 20th-ranked player in the state, suffered an ankle injury in Curtis’ 27-21 victory over St. Charles Catholic two weeks ago. He suited up for Friday night’s game but didn’t get to play. Wallace said he was held out for precautionary reasons and that he expects to play in next week’s game against De La Salle.
“The coaches just didn’t want to risk anything,” Wallace said. “I practiced all week, but the coaches didn’t want me to come out and tweak it again.”