NEW ORLEANS — Leave it to John Curtis coach J.T. Curtis to say the politically correct things.
He’ll tell you that Saturday’s Class 2A state championship game against Evangel Christian is “just another” game. That it’s no bigger — or less important — than any other his team has played this season. That Evangel, the perennial powerhouse to the north, is no big rival to Curtis, the perennial powerhouse to the south.
But leave it to Patriots senior running back Sherman Badie to tell it like it is.
“Oh, they’re our big rival,” Badie said. “And they beat us in the Dome my sophomore year. I definitely don’t want to know that feeling again. I don’t want that to be my last game. I know I have to play my best against Evangel.”
That shouldn’t be a problem for Badie or the rest of the Patriots, who will face their rival for the fourth time in the title game. Curtis defeated Evangel in 2008. Evangel won in 2009 and 2010. Last year the two met in the semifinals, with Curtis taking a 38-6 win.
Curtis (13-0) is ranked the No. 1 team in the country by some web sites. And many in the New Orleans metro area have said that this may be the best Curtis team ever. And some say the Patriots are a shoe-in to win their 25th state championship Saturday afternoon.
Kickoff is set for noon in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
And Badie is only the top back in Curtis’ overflowing arsenal of offensive weapons. A Tulane commitment since November, Badie has rushed for more than 700 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, although he said he doesn’t keep track.
Asked to pick a best game so far this season, he ponders it a moment before settling on the second one, against Plant High School of Tampa, Fla., which, oddly enough, also was played in the Superdome as part of the Allstate Prep Classic. He ran for three touchdowns in that game, including a 40-yard run on a fake punt.
Last month, Badie decided he liked playing the Superdome enough to commit to the Tulane and coach Curtis Johnson.
“I just felt like it was the one I was most comfortable with,” he said. “And I want to be with my family. I think (Johnson) is going to do a good job of recruiting and he’ll be bringing in some good players the next few years.”
Curtis said Badie is special, as he must be to stand out in such a talented crowd.
“He is a key player for us,” Curtis said. “We depend on him to make big plays. He has excellent speed, excellent field presence. And he’s a leader. Not so much a vocal leader as he is a leader on the field.
“He’s a complete football player.”
He’s also a complete athlete and a two-time state champion in track, competing in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and the 400- and 800-meter relay teams.
“It helps me a lot as a football player,” Badie said of running track. “It keeps you in condition. It helps with the foot work. It’s different because, football is a team sport and track is, it’s also team, but it’s also individual.
“You’re competing against other athletes and you’re competing for yourself.”
But Saturday is all about team, and all about winning that 25th state championship.
Badie said he’s ready.
“My job is just to make plays,” he said. “I just do what I do in practice.”