John Curtis was experience. The Patriots, already 25-time state champions, utilized a patient yet dominant running game that dared defenders to tackle them. Oftentimes, they didn’t.
Karr, defending state champions in their own classification but still new to this national stage, was youth. Led by a speedy, blue-chip recruit who goes by the same nickname, the Cougars dazzled with quarterback Devante Noil’s heroics.
On this Thursday night, experience won.
Both Karr (Class 4A) and Curtis (3A) came in ranked No. 1 in their respective classifications. Karr came in ranked No. 18 nationally by USA Today; Curtis No. 31.
Receiver Malachi Dupre’s 17-yard reverse set up a game-winning score by running back George Moreira from 5 yards to give Curtis a wild, 38-33 victory in front of several thousand at Behrman Stadium, earning more than just another nondistrict win.
No, this game marked one of the most anticipated contests of the season, giving the Patriots bragging rights in this dream matchup of nationally ranked local teams and defending state champions.
“We’re champions of the city,” Moreira said. “This game was basically to see who runs New Orleans.”
Moreira rushed for 156 yards and three touchdowns as Curtis started fast and finished in spectacular fashion. After Curtis’ first two scores in the first quarter, part of the Patriots’ 23-0 start, Moreira topped it off with his game-winning score with 26.5 seconds remaining. On the two-point conversion, teammate Brock Hebert mishandled the snap before locating Hunter Thibodaux in the end zone.
The Patriots’ efforts were enough to overshadow Noil’s performance. He led a furious comeback in the second quarter, helping the Cougars recover from a horrid start, with help from receivers Glenn Irons and Jeriah Tolbert.
Noil threw for 258 yards and four TDs, but was unable to hold on to Karr’s late-game lead. He was intercepted by Hunter Dale with 4:36 left as he aimed for receiver Joshua Peterson.
It proved to be one of the reasons two state champions entered the stadium, yet Curtis (3-1), the 2012 Class 2A state champions, left with a victory.
Curtis’ offense was limited when quarterback Blain Hebert suffered a broken collarbone in the first half and did not return, leaving the Patriots to operate their offense with running back Myles Washington.
“What I was proud of was how we continued to fight,” Curtis coach J.T. Curtis said. “We left hanging and fighting. That’s the mark of a good team.
“It gives your team the confidence we can compete against anybody.”
Curtis dominated the early moments with its running attack, most the carries in the hands of Moreira. With Karr struggling to bring down Moreira and his fellow running backs, the Patriots moved the ball with ease, adding in timely passing down field to receiver Jacob Bordelon on third down.
Curtis scored on its first four possessions — all in the first quarter. Moreira reached the end zone twice. The Patriots defense earned a safety when a high snap sailed over the head of Kerry Taylor, Karr’s reserve quarterback, and he threw an illegal pass from the end zone. Minutes later, Dontae Jones scored on another run through the middle of Karr’s defense, this time from 29 yards.
Karr did not score until Irons’ 60-yard kickoff return set up a short field for Karr, allowing Noil to lead a five-play, 21-yard drive early in the second, capped by his 5-yard pass to Glenn Irons in the corner of the end zone.
But if Curtis won the first quarter, Karr dominated the second and third. The Cougars managed three consecutive scores — two Noil TD passes and a 1-yard run by Albert McCaleb.
Late in the fourth quarter, Karr’s Bryan Anderson took a direct snap on a fourth-down fake punt, racing for a first down. Two plays later, Karr took advantage of its new offensive life when Noil found Irons for a 30-yard TD pass. On the play, he caught the pass in the middle of the field, made a move left to right and split the Curtis defense en route to the end zone. The extra point was blocked.
On defense, Karr defensive end Gerald Wllis forced a fumble on fourth-and-1 at the Curtis 19, which was recovered by Satorry McZeal.