Two of Louisiana’s premier programs went toe-to-toe Thursday night at Behrman Stadium in a matchup that lived up to the hype and then some for the first ever Walk-On’s VSN New Orleans Game of the Week.
John Curtis and Karr traded blows throughout a hot and humid night at the historic stadium in Algiers, and the Patriots prevailed in a shootout, 42-39, to start yet another season at 1-0.
Curtis rolled up a total of 353 yards rushing with six touchdowns, and Georgia commitment Corey Wren earned the Raising Cane’s Player of the Week award accounting for 185 of those yards with two touchdowns on 19 carries.
Curtis has now won 29 straight regular season games against in-state opponents, and also snapped Karr’s 27-game win streak in an intense back-and-forth battle.
“It was two defending state champions going at it and competing,” Wren said. “That’s really what we expected from these dudes. That’s a good team and a good program over there and I’m glad we came out with the victory.”
A thrilling contest was still in the balance late in the fourth quarter after a sensational 37-yard touchdown run by Karr senior quarterback Leonard Kelly. The Cougars hoped to tie the score with a two-point conversion, but the pass fell incomplete leaving Curtis ahead, 35-33, with 4:26 left in the game.
The Patriots took over at their own 20-yard line after a touchback, and then it was time for the River Ridge school to do what it does best — pound the rock.
Curtis needed just six plays to reach the end zone thanks to a 19-yard pickup by Wren and three big gains by senior quarterback Collin Guggenheim. The Army commitment powered his way to an 11-yard gain on the first play of the drive, then ran for 24 more three plays later before finishing off the drive two plays later with a 17-yard scamper for a score.
Austin McCready tacked on the extra point to give Curtis a decisive 42-33 advantage with just 1:50 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“Those drives come down to who wants it more,” Wren said. “Obviously, our o-line wanted it more, and we had a couple of guys that were cramping but we buckled down and got it done.”
The 3-time defending champs still weren’t ready to pack it in, though, and pieced together an 8-play, 69-yard to give themselves a chance at a comeback win. Kelly completed four of his seven passes on the drive for gains of 19 and 14 yards to senior receiver Darrell Hills, and 29 and 7 yards to senior receiver Reynaud Shields.
The last completion to Shields went for a touchdown and the Cougars also got the benefit of a roughing the passer penalty that would be enforced on the kickoff. Trailing 42-39 with 12.4 seconds remaining, Karr opted to go for two rather than the extra point, but the pass was incomplete.
A pair of offsides penalties on the ensuing kickoff only served to delay the inevitable as Guggenheim recovered the onside kick and promptly took a knee on the next play to end an incredible season opener.
“Karr’s a great team and they’re not state champs for no reason,” Guggenheim said. “They had a great gameplan coming in and came out in a little different (formation) than we thought, so our gameplan had to get revised a little bit. But it was definitely a tough game and a good win for our guys.”
Most of the big breaks in the game seemed to fall in Curtis’ favor as they forced two key fumbles for the only turnovers of the game. The first came on Karr’s opening drive but was relatively harmless as the Patriots punted on the ensuing possession, but the second fumble recovery loomed large in a close game.
Karr was on the precipice of taking the lead early in the fourth quarter after a 48-yard catch by junior receiver Destyn Pazon got the Cougars inside the 15-yard line. The Algiers squad looked like it was about to score when senior running back Leonte Richardson barreled his way inside the 5-yard line, but the ball was suddenly stripped by Curtis junior safety Kerry McMillion and recovered by junior Collin Morgan for a touchback.
The Karr defense held again, however, forcing a punt on the ensuing series and the Cougars took over with good field position at their own 38-yard line. This time they’d finish off the drive with a 32-yard scoring connection from Kelly to Hills giving themselves a 21-20 lead with 7:00 left in the third.
The lead was short-lived, though, as Curtis immediately put together an 8-play, 65-yard drive that included a 26-yard run down to the 1-yard line by Shane Goins. Goins then put the Patriots back on top two plays later with a short run, and it looked like Curtis may have put the game away on their next possession when Guggenheim gave his team a 35-21 lead with a 10-yard run with 11:14 to play.
Unsurprisingly, Karr refused to bow out, and responded with back-to-back touchdown drives orchestrated by Kelly to pull themselves with 35-33 late in the fourth before Curtis’ game-clinching drive.
Kelly was sensational for the Cougars completing 24 of his 38 passes for 419 yards with five touchdowns. He also ran for 57 yards with one more score, but his impressive performance didn’t catch Karr coach Brice Brown off guard in the slightest.
“That’s exactly what I expected from him,” Brown said of Kelly. “He’s known the gameplan for about a month now so he’s been working and studying film. Leonard gets to school at 7 o’clock in the morning and a lot of people don’t know that. It’s an hour and a half before school and he studies the gameplan, so this doesn’t surprise me at all and I’ll look for him to continue that throughout the season.”
Unfortunately for the Cougars, though, it wasn’t enough as they’ll still be in search of their first win of the season next week against McDonogh 35 Thursday at 7 p.m. at Tad Gormley Stadium.
“Both teams fought their butt off and that’s all we can ask for,” Brown said. “We’ve got a short week coming up against (McDonogh) 35, so we’ve got to go back to the drawing board.”
Curtis hopes to grab win No. 2 against Westlake (GA) in the Battle on the Border series in Shreveport Saturday at 3 p.m.
John Curtis: 365 yards of total offense (353 rushing, 12 passing)
Karr: 565 yards of total offense (146 rushing, 419 passing)
Rushing: Corey Wren, 19-185, 2 TDs; Collin Guggenheim, 15-95, 3 TDs; Shane Goins, 11-52, 1 TDs Patrick LeBranch, 2-12; Malique Ward, 2-10; Antonio Alexander, 1-(-1).
Receiving: Javon Stoudemire-Davis, 2-5; Connor Orgeron, 1-5; Corey Wren, 1-2.
Passing: Collin Guggenheim, 4-6, 12 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs.
Rushing: Leonard Kelly, 7-57, 1 TD; Leonte Richardson, 11-46; Kevin Marigny, 6-43; Jawin Newman, 1-0.
Receiving: Destyn Pazon, 3-146, 1 TD; Darrell Hills, 8-107, 1 TD; Aaron Anderson, 5-83, 2 TDs; Reynaud Shields, 2-36, 1 TD; Leonte Richardson, 3-26; Mister Simmons, 1-12; Dany’e Brooks, 2-9.
Passing: Leonard Kelly, 24-38, 419 yards, 5 TDs, 0 INTs.
John Curtis — Collin Guggenheim 1 run (Austin McCready kick), 10:23, 7-0.
Karr — Aaron Anderson 45 pass from Leonard Kelly (Nicholas Fredmont kick), 5:47, 7-7.
John Curtis — Corey Wren 33 run (kick failed), 10:14, 13-7.
Karr — Anderson 6 pass from Kelly (Fredmont kick), 8:09, 13-14.
John Curtis — Wren 42 run (McCready kick), 1:40, 20-14.
Karr — Darrell Hills 32 pass from Kelly (Fredmont kick), 7:00, 20-21.
John Curtis — Shane Goins 1 run (McCready kick), 3:28, 27-21.
John Curtis — Guggenheim 10 run (Antonio Alexander run), 11:14, 35-21.
Karr — Destyn Pazon 48 pass from Kelly (kick blocked), 8:39, 35-27.
Karr — Kelly 37 run (pass failed), 4:26, 35-33.
John Curtis — Guggenheim 17 run (McCready kick), 1:50, 42-33.
Karr — Reynaud Shields 7 pass from Kelly (pass failed), 12.4, 42-39.
NEXT UP: John Curtis will take on Westlake (GA) in the Battle on the Border in Shreveport Saturday at 3 p.m. Karr will look to rebound against McDonogh 35 Thursday at Tad Gormley Stadium at 7 p.m.