USA TODAY Sports is releasing one school of our top five in the Super 25 high school football rankings each day this week.
John Curtis Christian (River Ridge, La.) football coach J.T. Curtis knows precisely which athletics director to blame for the Patriots’ early schedule that includes Louisiana 4A state champion Edna Karr of New Orleans, Florida 7A champion St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale), 4A state quarterfinalist St. Augustine (New Orleans) and New Jersey state runner-up Bergen Catholic.
“Unfortunately, it’s me,” Curtis said. “Obviously, it’s a very challenging schedule. The Bergen Catholic game came up later on when the Brothers in Arms people approached us. We were to play Mandeville (a 5A school that won the Louisiana seven-on-seven title this summer), so we would already be playing a really good team. We welcome the challenge to play good people and look forward to the opportunity to play them. The games with St. Thomas Aquinas and Karr and St. Augustine came up because those teams were like us. They couldn’t get someone else to play them.”
The Patriots went 14-0 last season, won the state 2A title and finished No. 1 in the USA TODAY Sports Super 25. They’re No. 3 to start this season. While the Patriots lost 13 starters (seven on offense, six on defense) including seven Division I players, they return Malachi Dupre, the No. 1 receiver in the 2014 class, according to Scout.com, and linebacker Kenny Young, considered the No. 10 linebacker in the 2014 class, according to Rivals.com.
“We’ve had highly ranked players in the past, such as Joe McKnight (now a running back with the New York Jets), but the game is won with the guys who play between them,” Curtis said. “That’s where the improvement and solid play has to come, to allow guys like Dupre to run and for Young to make tackles.”
PHOTOS: Patriots’ road to No. 1
If the Patriots can get good blocking behind a rebuilt offensive line, they have the backfield to take advantage. Junior Abby Touzet didn’t start last year at quarterback but he led John Curtis to a state title as a freshman. Senior running back Raekwon James only had 44 carries last season but scored nine touchdowns. George Moreira, another senior running back, had only 34 carries but had eight touchdowns.
Defensively, it will be hard to pass on John Curtis because of returning corners Terrence Alexander and Mattrell McGraw, both of whom have more than 40 college offers, and because of junior safety Hunter Dale, who has made big improvements.
The team wrapped up summer workouts last week and is resting this week before starting preseason practice. In the meantime, J.T. Curtis is doing all the cooking for his extended family while in Destin, Fla.
“It’s probably my only hobby,” Curtis said Monday. “I did a good osso buco the other night, and I’m going to do a gumbo tonight. We have a variety of things.”
Maybe even a recipe for a 26th state title.