Curtis and Evangel.
Evangel and Curtis.
The two names seem to go hand in hand, like peanut butter and jelly or salt and pepper.
They are two of the most storied programs in Louisiana high school football, combining for 39 state titles.
They cross paths every year.
Or at least it seems like it.
“I know we have played them every game since my seventh-grade year,” said Curtis defensive back Hunter Dale. “So I consider it a rivalry because we have met so many times.”
The two schools, separated by over 300 miles, will meet again Friday, when the Eagles travel from Shreveport to take on the Patriots at Hoss Memtsas Stadium.
It will be the eighth straight season the teams have met in the postseason.
This time it is in the Division I playoffs, part of the now two-year old split format that many blame the two perennial powerhouses for helping create.
The two schools won so much that other schools didn’t like it, contributing to an eventual division between select and nonselect schools.
Since 2007, Evangel is the only team to ever beat Curtis in the postseason.
And in that same span, Curtis is the only team to beat Evangel in the postseason.
How dominant have they been?
Well, this is the earliest postseason meeting.
Last year, they met in the semis. The year before that in the title game. In 2011, the semis. The three previous years before that ended with three straight meetings in the Super Dome.
In 2007, when Dale and the rest of the Curtis seniors were fifth graders, they met in the semis.
Curtis leads the all-time series 5-3, including three straight.
Those three haven’t been close. All three have been decided by at least three touchdowns, including last season’s 40-6 blowout at Memtsas.
Patriots coach J.T. Curtis isn’t quick to call it a rivalry but did admit “there is a lot of anticipation on each side” whenever the two teams meet.
“I’m not very much on rivals,” Curtis said. “We are going to get people’s ‘A’ game, and our kids understand that. The teams we play are focused on who we are and want to play the best against us. But I think in the long run that helps us.”
Both teams chose to play up in classification this season, joining the Catholic League schools and other Class 5A schools in the postseason.
Evangel got its first taste of playing in the playoffs with the big boys last week, edging St. Paul’s 43-42 in an overtime thriller.
“They are your typical Evangel team,” said Curtis, going for his 27th title. “They do what they do. They are going to formation you to death with a lot of different formations. They probably run it a little more than they have in the past, but they like to throw the ball and make you miss and have big gains. That’s who they are, and that’s who they will continue to be.”
While Evangel got a taste of the playoffs last week, the Patriots had the week off with first-round bye, the rewards of earning the No. 1 seed in Division I.
Having an open date in the playoffs can sometimes be tricky, Curtis admitted.
“There is such a fine line,” he said. “You have to try to maintain your sharpness that you have gained from 10 weeks of the season, but you don’t want to overwork them and be tired. So we tried to cut back and work on some things we needed to sharpen up on.
“I don’t know if there is a formula. You just have to get a feel for your team and where you are.”
While Friday’s game is a big one, the next few weeks are even more highly anticipated. Friday’s winner gets the Brother Martin-Catholic winner, and the winner of that one likely could get Rummel or Jesuit.
It will be a much tougher road to the Dome for both.
They are both two wins from there and three wins from adding yet another trophy to what has to be a crowded trophy case.
Curtis already has 26 titles. Evangel has 13.
With both teams playing up in classification, a title this season would probably trump all the others.
“I think it’s great that we are playing up because there are a lot of good teams,” Dale said.
“People have been saying we haven’t been playing strong people, and we know the teams in Division I are tougher. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens.”
We all are.