NO. 2 EVANGEL CHRISTIAN (11-2) VS. NO. 1 JOHN CURTIS CHRISTIAN (12-1) -- The juggernauts of Class 2A collide again tonight in a rematch of the 2009 finals, won by Evangel (18-13).
Last week, Curtis throttled previously-undefeated East Feliciana in the semis by a 40-8 margin. The Patriots, whose only loss this year was to Class 4A Salmen, recorded eight quarterback sacks, intercepted two passes, and blocked a punt.
Senior running back Torrey Pierce ran for 159 yards and two TDs on 20 carries and backfield mate Quincy Smith added 109 yards on 14 attempts with a touchdown. Up-and-coming sophomore Brandon Porter set up a score with a fumble recovery in enemy territory.
Beefy junior defensive tackle Marcel Andry, a three-star prospect, accounted for two sacks and five tackles last week. He has 89 stops (and eight sacks) this fall.
Linebacker Duke Riley, just a sophomore, leads Curtis with 112 tackles. He's part of an extremely solid LB corps that includes senior Seth Jones (SMU offer) and 6-foot-5 junior Torrey Bell (seven sacks).
Last year, the Patriots had trouble defending the pass against Evangel WRs Eric Thomas and Thomas Bridgewater, and the good news (for Curtis) is that both Thomas and Bridgewater have moved on to the college ranks.
"These two teams are just the good matchup that you always want to see in the championship."
Evangel junior strong safety Dwight Gatlin broke open a close game last week by returning an interception 35 yards for a TD in the Eagles' 35-15 semifinal victory over St. Charles Catholic.
The defending state champs picked off four passes vs. St. Charles, but they also fumbled away the football on three occasions. Senior cornerback Dexter Burnom had two of the four interceptions.
"I see this one going back and forth," said Many High School coach Jess Curtis, who has faced both teams in the playoffs over the past two years. "It's going to come down to whether Curtis can establish the run. Can Curtis run the football?
"They have a shot if they can do that. Evangel's offense has struggled some in the playoffs and it should be a good game that could go either way. I don't want to try and pick a winner."
BOTTOM LINE: Evangel doesn't look to be quite as strong as last year, having graduated several players that are now suiting up on Saturdays. By the same token, Curtis is a junior and sophomore-laden team, although the Patriots do have a handful of outstanding seniors.
Last year, Curtis couldn't get the running game established vs. the Eagles' defensive front, and the Patriots' DBs were unable to cover Thomas and Bridgewater.
Moreover, ECA does return its QB in Duron, but their receivers aren't as spectacular and physical as last year's dynamic duo of Thomas and Bridgewater.
John Curtis, 21-14