By Michael Hotard
The Jesuit Blue Jays football team captured the Division I state title Friday night, defeating the national powerhouse John Curtis Patriots in a 17-14 showdown at the Mercedes Benz Superdome.
The last time the Blue Jays garnered the title was 1960. Senior quarterback Trey LaForge said the win is a dream come true.
“This is the best feeling I have had in awhile,”LaForge said. “This is the kind of stuff you dream about from the time you are fouryearsold playing at the playground.”
The two teams met in front of nearly 26,000 fans.
.“We have to give a lot of credit to the fans because they are like our 12th man out there,” he said.
Even Patriots coach J.T. Curtis talked about how great the atmosphere was in the Superdome for the showdown.
“This is what high school football should be about. The energy from both sides was tremendous. I thought the fan support for both schools was tremendous. Jesuit is dealing with about 100 more years of school than I got. Maybe one day I will be there and we will get that kind of crowd, too. Our people came out and supported our team.” Curtis said. “I don’t know if you could have a better atmosphere or more competitive game for a championship.”
Jesuit got off to a quick start on the defensive side, shutting down the Patriots’ veer attack forcing a punt on the first possession followed by an interception in the end zone by junior defensive back Jakirai Wiley. It was the first of four turnovers caused by Jesuit’s defense.
However, the offense was not able to capitalize and put points on the board off of the miscues.
“There were some mistakes they made and we should have capitalized earlier, but they are a really good football team and don’t allow you to do that,” Jesuit coach Mark Songy said.
After a scorless first quarter, Curtis scored the game’s first touchdown on a six-play, 75-yard drive capped by a Myles Washington rushing touchdown.
Jesuit answered right back with a score of its own after LaForge threw a quick slant, hitting junior receiver Kalija Lipscomb for 35 yards to tie the game.
Curtis appeared to have the momentum, taking a halftime lead of 147 after Washington completed a 20-yard touchdown pass on a deep fade to receiver Jacob Bordelon with five seconds remaining before halftime.
“We went in to halftime down 14-7 so we talked to them about having 24 minutes left to play,” Songy said. “We knew we could move the ball offensively and the defense was playing real well at the time against a potent offense that likes to grind it out.”
Curtis began the opening drive of the second half at its own 25 and began to move backward because of penalties.
“We felt like we needed to come out in the opening series when we got the kickoff and do something with the ball. We did that last week,” Curtis said. “This week we went backwards.”
Jesuit was able to cut the lead to four on the next drive after a 28-yard field goal by kicker Crew Jacobs.
“Jacobs had the kick that was the difference in the ball game so I am really happy for him because he has struggled a bit in the past,” Songy said.
Heading into the fourth quarter down 14-10, it did not take long for Jesuit to take the lead.
The Blue Jays forced a Curtis punt early in the period and took possession with 11:33 left to play. Two minutes later, LaForge hit Lipscomb for the second time, going 45 yards on a deep ball.
Curtis had three more chances for a go-ahead score, but had two fumbles and a turnover on downs.
The Blue Jays finished the game with 217 yards on 34 carries, led by senior running backs ChrisMills and Charles Jackson. Mills finished with 69 yards while Jackson led the team with 142 yards and was named the game's Most Outstanding Player.
“If you take away our pass game, we are going to run. You have to give up something. People call it a chess match, but it is more like checkers. It isn’t that complicated. When they are trying to take away the pass, there will be open running lanes,” Songy said. “Our offensive line did a great job opening up the holes. When you can loosen them up, it opens up the pass.”
LaForge finished 7 of 14 passing for 112 yards and two touchdowns.
“He is in sync with his receivers. He came through in the clutch like he has done in the past so I am not surprised by how well he played,” Songy said.
The 17-14 win over Curtis gave Jesuit its seventh state championship.
Songy joked after the win, saying he should just retire on top.
“I have to get out now because I can’t top this,” he said.
Jesuit will lose several key players including LaFarge, Jackson and Mills. The Blue Jays will have some fun for the time being and worry about that later.
“I don’t even want to think about that yet,” Songy said. “I just want to enjoy this.”