Plenty of teams dream of coming up with a game plan to beat traditional power John Curtis. Catholic High simply took a page from the Patriots’ playbook.
A suffocating Bears defense forced three turnovers and limited Curtis to 98 rushing yards. It was just the opening the second-seeded Catholic needed to notch a 14-0 victory over Curtis in a Division I select semifinal game Friday night at Olympia Stadium.
“I can’t say enough about our defensive coordinator Deuce Harrison and how well he had our guys prepared,” Fertitta said. “I’m so proud of these guys and the way they executed. For us, this started last year after we lost in the finals. Deuce (and I) were talking on the phone the day after about what we needed to do to be prepared to get to this point. This is truly a Cur Dog effort. They never let up.”
With the win, Catholic (12-0) advances to the Division I title game for the third straight year and fourth time in five years. The Bears meet top-seeded Archbishop Rummel, a 37-27 winner of Brother Martin. The game is tentatively set for 7 p.m. Friday at Tulane’s Yulman Stadium.
The victory avenges a 49-7 loss to Curtis in last year’s title game. Curtis (10-2) was shut out for the first time in 18 years, according to Catholic coach Gabe Fertitta.
Josh Parker led Catholic with 72 yards on 15 carries. Parker scored the game’s first touchdown. Jackson Thomas was 12 of 16 for 120 yards, including a 31-yard pass to Michael Grizzaffi that set up Catholic’s second TD.
Defensive lineman Braelon Hobson recovered two fumbles, including one with 9:12 to go in the game that thwarted Curtis’ best scoring opportunity. Joshua Robertson had an interception with 3:26 remaining. LC Benjamin was in on a couple sacks coming off the edge as a safety and also helped stall Curtis’ option on the outside.
“We were just being dogs out there. … being ballhawks and playing relentless on every play,” Benjamin said. “Whatever they did, we put our hats on them.”
Georgia commitment Corey Wren led Curtis with 64 yards on 12 carries. Quarterback Collin Guggenheim was limited to 28 yards on 14 carries in Curtis’ option attack. He passed for 78 yards.
Catholic got the first break of the game after forcing Curtis to punt from the CHS 41. From there, the Bears took a 7-0 lead with the only touchdown of the first half.
The punt snap sailed over the head of Curtis’ Austin McCready, who recovered the ball and was tackled for a loss of 39 yards. The Bears took over at the JC 19 and scored two plays later on a 9-yard run by Parker with 6:15 to go in the first quarter.
Curtis drove to the Catholic 21 on its next possession. But a Patriots' fumble was recovered by Hobson. The teams traded possessions after that. Curtis saw a big pass play erased by an ineligible player downfield. Catholic took over one last time with 3:27 to go and drove all the way to the Curtis 3 with nine seconds remaining. Curtis’ Angelo Anderson, a Tulane commitment, broke through and sacked the Bears’ Jackson Thomas to end the half.
Neither team gained much ground on the other in the third quarter. Curtis put together the first serious drive late in the quarter. Wren had 14-yard run. But on fourth-and-1 at the CHS 14, the ball came loose in a pile of players and Hobson fell on it.
“I knew we needed to make a play and I was going to try and punch the ball out,” Hobson said. “When I saw it was already out, I got to it.”
After catching a 31-yard pass from Thomas to get the Bears in the red zone, Grezzaffi caught a 1-yard TD pass to make it 14-0 with 3:45 remaining.
“It was a physical battle the whole way,” Curtis coach J.T. Curtis said. “Their defense, I thought, played really well. And I thought our defense played well. I thought the kid (Michael Grizzaffi) made a tremendous catch that put them inside the 20 on their second touchdown. That’s what quality teams do — they make plays.”