New faces emerge as John Curtis begins transition year in football _lowres

Advocate photo by J.T. BLATTY-- John Curtis quarterback Collin Guggenheim runs the offense in an intrasquad scrimmage Saturday at Jefferson Playground.

2015 will be a year of transition in many ways for the John Curtis football team.

Along with the school’s move up to Class 5A and into the Catholic League, the Patriots are in the process of replacing their starting quarterback (Myles Washington), one of their starting running backs (Dontae Jones) and three of their leaders on defense (Bo Wallace, Hunter Dale and Mikey Cochran) from a team that made it to the Division I state championship game before falling to Jesuit.

But in the mind of J.T. Curtis, Saturday morning’s intrasquad spring game was no different than any other he’s experienced during his 46 seasons as head coach of the Patriots.

“No matter what season we go into, we play a very competitive schedule,” said Curtis, who boasts a 540-58-6 record with 26 state championships during his tenure. “It’s going to be a physical season, and we have to have a great summer to prepare for that.”

Curtis may have lost several of its key contributors on defense, but several new faces began to make names for themselves Saturday, with the white and blue defenses combining to force six turnovers in the scrimmage.

The White team made more plays in the end for a 12-6 victory over the Blue. All three touchdowns came after a turnover.

Quarterback Collin Guggenheim and running back Marquese Albert each scored 1-yard touchdowns for the White team, with the Blue’s only score coming on a fade pass from quarterback Dru Anthony to wide receiver Travis O’Connor.

“Everybody played hard today and it was a good scrimmage,” O’Connor said. “We still have a lot of stuff to work on, but it was fun to come out and get some work in. We always feel like we can improve, but we did a lot of good things out there today.”

The quarterback position may be the biggest question mark for Curtis as fall approaches, and none of the potential replacements for Washington have done enough during spring practices to separate themselves from the pack.

Guggenheim, Anthony and Blaine Hebert were the three quarterbacks who got the majority of first-team snaps Saturday, and Anthony was the only one to complete a touchdown pass. None completed a pass for more than 20 yards.

Soon-to-be senior Brock Hebert expects to be in the mix as well, once the team returns for summer practices, but he was held out Saturday with a knee injury.

Curtis added that it isn’t out of the question for the team to use more than one quarterback.

“They are doing all right, we’re still trying to help them learn a few things,” O’Connor said. “All three of those guys are either entering their sophomore or junior year, so they don’t have a lot of experience. We’re just trying to help teach them the best we can.”

The Patriots also are working to restock the secondary after the loss of key seniors. Along with Dale, last year’s starting free safety, Curtis lost both of its starting cornerbacks in A.J. Huff and Dorian Rodrigue.

Curtis said several position battles are open in the secondary, but two players in particular caught the coach’s eye with their play Saturday. Safety Brandon Davis made his case for a spot in the secondary with two interceptions, and safety Taj Bickham had an interception and a fumble recovery.

Devon Benn, who started at running back last season, also played a large portion of the scrimmage at cornerback.

“We really feel like we’ll have about five or six guys that can play back there,” Curtis said. “Those two guys did a nice job, and we feel like Devon can give us some added depth back there.”