Denied its precision-like, silky smooth passing game, Jesuit took the “old-fashioned Catholic League football” path while pounding out a 17-14 victory over John Curtis in Friday night’s Division I select state football championship game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The victory came 54 years after Jesuit’s previous football title, a 21-20 victory over LaGrange in 1960. The last time the Jays won the championship in New Orleans was a 7-6 win over Byrd in 1953.
Curtis had won four consecutive state titles and has 26 overall.
The Jays (12-2) spotted Curtis a 14-7 halftime lead, but eventually the Patriots were forced to rely on their passing attack instead of the crushing veer running game that has become a Curtis trademark.
Curtis (10-3) gained almost half of its 335 total yards in the second quarter as quarterback Myles Washington led two touchdown drives while the Patriots gobbled up 158 yards in the period.
Washington threw for a season-high 125 yards after Jesuit smothered the Patriots’ inside run game and forced most of the outside options wide enough for help to arrive.
The decisive touchdown came at the start of the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Trey LaForge, who completed only 7 of 14 passes for 112 yards, chalked up more than half of that total on the winning touchdown drive. He hit three passes for 60 yards on the surge, including a 45-yard touchdown pass Kalija Lipscomb, Lipscomb’s second of the night.
Charles Jackson, voted Outstanding Player for the champs, carried the ball 16 times for a 142 yards.
Curtis’ second-quarter domination came after “they split their (line) gaps wider,” Jesuit defensive coordinator Troy Baglio said. “We made an adjustment and were able to cheat our (linebackers) inside.”
The strategy worked. Curtis rushed for only 80 yards in the second half.
“Everybody says it’s like a chess match,” Jesuit coach Mark Songy said. “But it’s not. It is more like checkers. They take something away, (and) we make adjustments. They are about as physical a team as you can play, and we pride ourselves in being physical on both sides of the ball. We play old-fashioned Catholic League football.”
Jesuit’s defense made several key plays at crucial points in the second half.
Defensive back Dillon Knight reached back to knock down a touchdown pass that would have given Curtis the lead. Defensive lineman Osmond Torres stopped one Curtis drive by stripping the ball from Washington, and Zack Robert recovered.
Curtis had a second drive killed by a lost fumble by caused by Jesuit’s Mitchell Melito, and Hunter Robert recovered that one. Jakirai Wiley, who had an interception in the first quarter, jarred a fourth-down pass loose from Curtis’ Kerry Buckley inside the Jesuit 30 in the final minute.
“Give them credit,” Curtis coach J.T. Curtis said. “They made big plays when they had to have big plays.”
After managing only 23 rushing yards in the first quarter, Curtis was able to get its offense in sync on both of its second-quarter possessions and managed a 14-7 halftime lead.
A keeper by Washington for a 10-yard gain preceded a tackle-busting run by Devon Benn that gained 37 yards and produced a first down at the Jesuit 5-yard line.
On second down from the 3, Washington faked a dive play and ran into the hole right behind the running back for a touchdown.
LaForge, who did not complete a pass on his first five dropbacks, finally hit Lipscomb on a short 5-yard slant with 10 minutes gone in the quarter. That completion started a drive that covered 70 yards and was finished with a deeper slant to Lipscomb, splitting three defenders in the Curtis zone defense, covering 35 yards and producing a 7-7 tie.
Washington, who completed all three of his second-quarter passes for 51 yards on the next drive, brought the Partriots right back. He twice rolled to his left and found Travis O’Conner for gains of 15 and 16 yards. Then, with only 11 seconds remaining and on a first-and-goal play at the Jesuit 20, the 6-foot-2 O’Conner was isolated on 5-foot-9 Justin Helm, and Washington threw a perfect corner route just out of Helm’s reach for a touchdown.
Curtis was in front 14-7, but it was a lead that Jesuit was able to cut into in the third period.
Curtis drove to the Jesuit 12- and 25-yard lines in the third quarter and came away without points.
“We got down there and didn’t get points,” J.T. Curtis said. “I thought that was big.”
On the first threat, a 15-yard personal foul penalty moved the ball back to the Jesuit 25, and the touchdown-saving bat-down by Knight denied the Patriots points.
Jesuit answered with a 63-yard drive, 53 of which came on a run by Jackson. Crew Jacobs’ 28-yd field goal pulled the Jays within 14-10 with 7:16 left in the third period.
A crowd of 25,900 witnessed the game, the first meeting between the schools. It was Curtis’ 30th appearance in a Superdome championship game, but only the second for Jesuit.