John Curtis fought off a feisty pack of St. Paul’s Wolves, 35-21, Friday night at the Shrine on Airline in an LHSAA Select Division I quarterfinal contest. The Patriots will move on to the semifinals next Friday with a home game against Scotlandville, a winner over Brother Martin.
The Patriots trailed St. Paul’s, 21-20, entering the fourth quarter. The game was undecided until the last two minutes, when Curtis a capped off a 14-play, 91-yard drive to extend its 28-21 advantage. The drive started midway through the quarter, chewing 6:26 off the clock, and putting the finishing touch on a hard earned victory.
The game matched the Wolves’ long bombs through the air contrasted to the Patriots quick-strike capability on the ground. Running backs Darryan Washington and Malik Wells led the attack for Curtis. Washington scored on runs of 11, 34 and 20 yards, the last two of which provided the final winning margin. Wells had the longest, a 50-yard TD run, and Brandon Davis scampered 36 yards with an interception return.
Curtis averaged 7.5 yards per carry as a team, mounting a total of 352 yards rushing for the night. Wells had 10 carries for 160 yards. Washington carried 19 times for 125 yards.
An early 14-0 Curtis lead was eclipsed by a 15 point St. Paul’s run. Curtis broke back on top, 20-15, but St. Paul’s was far from finished. They answered, taking the lead back, 21-20, in the late stages of the third quarter. The Patriots retook the lead for good with Washington’s 34-yard scoring run, a Collin-Guggenheim to Glenn Beal pass for two extra points, and Washington’s 20-yard TD. Brock Wunstell was four-for-four on his PAT kicks.
The win stretched the Curtis winning streak to nine games, now with a 10-1 season record. The have reached the semifinals for the 23rd straight year and are in pursuit of their 27th state championship. They are now 29-5 since moving up to Class 5A in 2015.
Curtis appeared to in control in the early stages Friday night. Punter Austin Mccready pooched one to the Wolves’ three yard line, setting up the game’s first score. The defense bottled up the St. Paul’s offense, and freshman Caleb Spann returned the following punt 20 yards to the Wolves’ 14.
Two plays later, Washington busted over the left side of his offensive line over the remaining 13 yards to pay dirt on the gleaming green turf. Wunstell’s PAT made it 7-0 with 5:32 left in the initial quarter.
Davis sweetened the lead on St. Paul’s next possession when he deftly stepped in front of a pass in the right flat and raced untouched for a score. It was Davis’s fifth interception and second pick-six of the year.
After the defense forced a three-and-out, the Curtis offense staged a march from its own 45 to St, Paul’s 25, where the drive died on downs. The Wolves quietly moved to the 28 where, on third down, they struck through the air on a 72-yard pass-and-run play. A bad snap on the PAT left the count 14-6, Curtis, in the final seconds of the opening quarter.
After a couple of Curtis punts, St. Paul’s launched a drive at the Patriots’ 46. The drive took to plays, reaching the Curtis six yard line. On a third down from there, a hard charging Jay Curtis swatted down a pass, forcing a field goal try with three seconds remaining before halftime. The kick, from 24 yards out, was good.
While the band played on, Curtis had the lead (14-9), but St. Paul’s had the momentum. The visitors stormed out of the locker room, took the kickoff, and quickly stormed into the lead. It took just two plays, the second one another aerial bomb. This time it was 62 yards. A failed two-point PAT pass kept the count at 15-14, St. Paul’s.
Curtis immediately responded with a four play, 78 yard drive to take the lead back. After Washington and Wells moved it from the Curtis 24 to midfield in three plays, Wells put the Patriots back on top. He blasted over left tackle, cut back into the middle, turned on the afterburners and had nobody in his rear view mirror for the last 45 yards of his 50-yard bolt.
Washington was stopped a foot short on the PAT running attempt, thus the Curtis lead stayed at five, 20-15. The Wolves came right back, this time with a sustained 59 yard march. They took the lead back, 21-20 on a one yard plunge. Their try for two also failed when Angelo Anderson deflected a passing attempt.
The St. Paul’s lead lingered until late until late in the third quarter. The winning march was sudden. After an exchange of punts, the Patriots moved from their 24 to the St. Paul’s 34 in two plays. On the third snap of the series, Washington rambled 34 yards for what proved to be the final go-ahead score in the seesaw struggle. On the PAT, Guggenheim rolled to his right, closely watched by 11 Wolves. Glenn Beal slipped out to the left from his tight end position, and Guggenheim’s easy lob brought the count to 28-21, home team
The Patriots missed an opportunity when an Anderson sack created a Choncee Crum fumble recovery at the Wolves’ 28. But the St. Paul’s defense held as the game moved into the fourth quarter.
St. Paul’s pecked its way across midfield in 10 pays before punting. Curtis fumbled the punt but recovered on the Patriot nine yard line.
A seeming eon of time remained on the clock when Curtis took over. And the Patriots offensive line did the taking over, finally wearing down the Wolves’ defense. A battering barrage of Washington, Wells and Guggenheim (and throw in an 11-yard carry by Ernest Jones) mercilessly ground out 91 yards and ran six and one-half minutes off the clock all the way down to 1:39. All 14 plays on the drive were by rushing, sustained by six first downs.
The final coup came when Washington cut through the left side, broke a couple of tackles at the line of scrimmage, and carried his lunch pail for the final 34 yards, sending the Patriot faithful home happy.