John Curtis and Evangel have produced their share of football donnybrooks.
But none to match the fireworks produced Friday night in a stirring 56-34 Curtis victory in a Division I state semifinal played at Joe Yenni Stadium.
Twice down by two touchdowns in the first quarter, top-seeded Curtis refused to be denied in scoring seven touchdowns in the second and third quarters. The Patriots gained 509 yards, including 391 yards rushing.
Quarterback Collin Guggenheim accounted for 245 yards and five of his team’s eight touchdowns with his running and passing to offset a brilliant passing effort from Evangel’s Blake Shapen.
Guggenheim ran for touchdowns of 2, 6, 6 and 4 yards while carrying 15 times for 127 yards. The Patriots junior also passed for 118 yards as he completed 5 of 6 attempts with a 52-yard touchdown to wide receiver Joel Taylor and a 44-yard completion to wide receiver Javon Davis to set up another touchdown.
Curtis (12-0) advances to the Division I championship game Dec. 8 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to face No. 2 Catholic of Baton Rouge in a rematch of last year's final.
Fifth-seeded Evangel (8-4) sustained its first loss against an in-state opponent and had its eight-game winning streak broken. The Eagles started 0-3 against out-of-state foes.
Curtis also increased its series advantage against Evangel to 7-4 and avenged a 27-6 shellacking administered by the Eagles in the 2016 Division I state semifinals. The Patriots are seeking their 27th state championship.
Down 14-0 and then 20-7, the Patriots answered with four second-quarter touchdowns and then added three more in the third period to take a commanding 48-28 lead into the final quarter.
“It was a rough start, but this team bounced back really well," Guggenheim said. “We fixed a bunch of cracks and fought back pretty well. It was a tough start, because you never want to be that far down. But we just had to trust the process. The main thing to take out of this is that it is just like life. You’re going to get knocked down. You just have to get back up."
Curtis running back Ma’Khi Smith contributed two rushing touchdowns covering 39 and 14 yards after backfield mate Shane Goin scored the three-time reigning Catholic League champions’ first points via a 46-yard bolt around right end.
Smith rushed for 75 yards on 6 carries, Goin had 68 yards on four attempts and Choncee Crum 81 yards on seven rushes.
It was Shapen’s passing and the receiving of wide receivers Horatio Ruffins and Jalen Abraham and running back Tamauge Sloan that kept the Eagles from being totally buried by Curtis’ offensive barrage.
Shapen accounted for four touchdowns with his passing and running while completed 22 of 28 passes for 229 yards and three scores. His touchdown passes covered 16, 8 and 41 yards by Abraham, Ruffins and Sloan, respectively.
Shapen was intercepted once by defensive back Donald Clay to halt an Evangel possession and set into motion a Curtis scoring drive that Ma’Khi Smith capped with a 14-yard run with 29 seconds remaining in the first half. Curtis led 35-20 at halftime.
“I said they had great skill people," Curtis coach J.T. Curtis said. “And that might have been as good a group of skill people as we’ve faced. Their quarterback is as fine of a throwing quarterback as I’ve played against, and I’ve played against some good ones."
Abraham returned the opening kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown and the Eagles followed by capitalizing on a Curtis fumble to drive 50 yards for Shapen's 1-yard sneak to take a 14-0 lead.