As I walked toward the interview room Thursday night, a former coach greeted me with a smile.
“So your team wasn’t as good as advertised,” he said moments after John Curtis shut out University High 32-0 in the Division II title game.
Advertised? The only advertisements on display at the Louisiana High School Athletic Association/State Farm Prep Classic title game were draped on walls or shown on the electronic scoreboard.
This was about football. The Patriots reminded everyone once again, lest we forget, that there are reasons why they now have 26 state titles.
The formula for success didn’t change even though the title-game format and opponent were different for the Patriots (10-2).
For U-High, the timing certainly seemed right. Even though the Cubs (13-1) were making their first title-game appearance since 1990, they had the look of a team with a name other than Evangel Christian that could challenge Curtis.
The pregame matchup looked great. U-High was explosive on offense, and Curtis was Curtis — the stern traditional power.
On one hand, you had Curtis’ legendary J.T. Curtis, Louisiana’s all-time winningest coach who now has 530 wins. University’s Chad Mahaffey, 35, is definitely one of the top up-and-comers.
To say that UHS had dominated its opponents all year would be an understatement.
Between the yard lines and the end zones at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Cubs found some tough realities.
“Hats off to (Curtis),” Mahaffey said. “I hate to see it end this way. When you play good people, the margin for error is really small.”
Regrets? Perhaps there are a few for the Cubs. In some ways, the game evolved as a study of how football came to be a game of inches and how those inches make the difference between a big play and a big deficit.
“We made them earn it down the field,” J.T. Curtis said. “The big thing was that we did not give up a big pass. (U-High) had burned people with big passes.”
One of the biggest plays for Curtis had to be the final play of the first half. The Patriots held a 6-0 lead and were running out of time to score. Raekwon Williams caught a 13-yard pass and scored on an inches play by lunging for the goal line.
Williams’ second touchdown made it 13-0. Once the Patriots put up a third touchdown, the issue was pretty much settled.
University scored a bunch of points and posted some impressive wins in its first Class 3A/Division II season. No one should forget that or any of the great things Mahaffey’s team accomplished or downplay them because of a title-game loss.
But I doubt the Cubs will forget Curtis or its defense as they prepare for next season and beyond.
University lineman Garrett Brumfield, an LSU commitment, noted the physicality but stopped short of heaping too much praise on Curtis.
“They had guys who made plays,” he said.
Curtis linebacker Kenny Young, the Patriots’ title-game MVP, took care of that.
“We’d been preparing for two weeks to put on a performance,” he said.
Indeed they did. Yet again.