“Off week” is like a dirty word for the Catholic High School football team this week, even if the Bears don’t play again until Dec. 8 select Division I championship game.

“We’re not calling it an off week,” coach Gabe Fertitta said. “We’re considering it a prep week.”

True to his word, the Bears (11-1) are practicing every day this week in preparation for a return match against John Curtis (12-0) inn the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Catholic defeated the Patriots 20-14 last year for their second title in three years.

University High (12-0) is dealing with the same scenario as the Cubs try to win their second straight Division II title against the last team to beat them in the playoffs, St. Thomas More (11-1).

“We try to slow some things down as far as teaching, special teams and situational stuff,” U-High coach Chad Mahaffey said. “We might have a little competition, good on good, just to keep the speed of it up. To some extent just a lot of fundamentals and trying to give them a little break on wear and tear.”

Both teams had byes in the first round of the playoffs three weeks ago and the blueprint is mostly the same. Mahaffey said after running through some base offense and defense, practice on the game plans began Wednesday with a light workout Friday before taking the weekend off.

At Catholic, coaches began game-planning shortly after last week’s 13-10 victory against Rummel. Implementing started Wednesday as the team practiced every day this week, with something added for the junior varsity.

“One thing we’re going to do is have a live scrimmage with the (junior varsity) guys, throw the ball out there and go play football,” Fertitta said. “They’ve been scout team guys for so long. It gives them a chance to play and have fun.”

The extra preparation both teams has come in handy considering the quality of opponent. The Bears face a Curtis program with 26 state titles and with some familiar faces from last year’s battle.

U-High is tackling a Cougars team that averaged 58.6 points per game and lost only to Catholic (54-42) this season after leading by 21 points in the first quarter.

“They are probably one of the most explosive offenses, certainly in the state, maybe more,” Mahaffey said. “I don’t know how many schools have ever averaged 60 points a game for the season. The quarterback does a great job, gets rid of the ball and puts it where he needs to put it.

“Defensively they get overlooked because the offense scores so many points. They’ve got the biggest front probably we’ve played against and they rotate a lot of guys in there.” 

STM quarterback Caleb Halstein passed for 238 yards and four touchdowns last week in a 49-7 victory against St. Charles. Running back William Cryer rushed for 134 yards on 13 carries.

Catholic has to come up with an answer for Curtis quarterback Collin Guggenheim, who directed a 56-34 victory against Evangel Academy. Guggenheim rushed for 130 yards and four touchdowns and passed for 128 yards and another TD.

“The biggest player is (Guggenheim),” Fertitta said. “As a sophomore last year, he was magnificent. Every single person to a man that has seen them mentions the quarterback. He makes them go. He’s dynamic, a playmaker for them. The defense was big last year and is bigger this year.”