Anyone assuming an easy win for nationally-ranked John Curtis Saturday night against St. Augustine at Yulman Stadium was sadly mistaken.
The Purple Knights proved their worth as a Catholic League contender going toe-to-toe with the defending league and Division I champs, but the Patriot pedigree proved too much to overcome as Curtis put up a pair of touchdowns in the last 4:20 of the game to pull away for a 36-22 victory.
“St. Aug is a good, big, physical team,” said Curtis quarterback Collin Guggenheim, who rushed for a game-high 201 yards with four touchdowns on 13 carries. “They had a good plan that they executed very well in the beginning and we got a little sloppy with the football, but in the end we pulled it out.”
The Patriots (4-0, 1-0) prevailed despite St. Augustine (3-1, 0-1) forcing four turnovers in the game, the last of which seemed like it would swing the momentum in the Purple Knights’ favor for good.
St. Aug had just answered Guggenheim’s 88-yard touchdown dash with their own touchdown when junior Kendell Sampson Jr. found senior receiver Khi Mathieu for a 42-yard score with 10:57 left in the game. Sampson Jr. then ran in the two-point conversion knotting the score at 22, then Tahj Adams intercepted Guggenheim two plays later setting St. Aug up 42 yards away from a score.
The Purple Knights were able to make their way to the 8-yard line before running back Mahmood Bailey was dropped for a four yard loss by Joseph Kreger, and St. Aug was eventually forced to settle for a field goal from there. The attempt was wide left, though, and Curtis capitalized two plays later with a 76-yard touchdown run by Guggenheim for a 29-22 lead with 4:20 to play.
“The goal line stand and knocking them back a little bit to force the field goal was big,” Curtis coach J.T. Curtis said. “We just continued to run our offense and believing in what we do was a big part of the win.”
Curtis wasn’t in the clear yet, though, as St. Augustine had proven it could move the ball on the Patriots’ defense.
They took over at their own 24 after a 23-yard return by Josh White, but immediately went backwards with a substitution penalty. They got a bit of it back with a short pass on the next play, and momentarily had a first down after a catch and run by White that was wiped out by a penalty.
That’s when Curtis’ defensive front took over.
After a second down sack combination by Marquis Martin and Kylin White, Matthew Jayne Jr. and Tulane commitment Angelo Anderson finished things off with two more sacks on third and fourth down.
Anderson nearly recorded a safety taking Sampson Jr. down at the 1-yard line, but that ended up working in the Patriots’ favor as Guggenheim powered his way in for a touchdown on the next play sealing the win with a 36-22 advantage with 1:57 left in the contest.
“The electricity of what is was like when we made those sacks, there’s nothing like it,” said Jayne Jr., who missed a chunk of the start of the season with an injury. “I was missing my senior year and I love this team. I’m so happy I could be back for this game.”
It was truly a back-and-forth battle until the final minutes as Curtis and St. Aug were nearly equal in offensive production. The Patriots gained 359 yards to the Purple Knights’ 349, but it was St. Augustine who struck first capitalizing off a fumble recovery by Kevin Cooley Jr.
“Big Purple” covered 61 yards in 12 plays capped off by an 8-yard pass from Sampson Jr. to White, who had a much more prominent role Saturday night after seeing minimal time on offense through the first three weeks. The senior had five touches for 52 yards and also brought back two kick returns for another 33 yards.
Curtis responded to White’s first down a few possessions later with another long run by Guggenheim, this one from 52 yards out to tie the score at 7-7 with 25 seconds to go in the opening period.
St. Aug quickly got back on top, though, with a 9-play, 80-yard drive highlighted by a 29-yard catch by Mathieu down to the 1-yard line. Justin Doyle powered his way in on the next play for a 14-7 advantage and the Purple Knights took complete control after a fumble recovery by Adams following a 40-yard pickup by Curtis’ Corey Wren.
St. Aug made its way into the red zone, but Kerry McMillan came up with Curtis’ only takeaway intercepting Sampson Jr. at the goal line. The Curtis offense followed with a 9-play, 86-yard drive that included a somewhat controversial substitution penalty giving the Patriots a first down on fourth down near midfield.
A 43-yard run by Guggenheim cut the score to 14-13 and he soon ran in the two-point conversion after an encroachment penalty by St. Aug on the point after.
“This was exactly what I expected for our (Catholic League) opener,” Curtis said. “We competed for the whole four quarters and I was proud of that, and so did (St. Aug). It was a really good football game between two good football teams.”
Adams came up with another fumble recovery for St. Aug on Curtis’ first drive of the half, but the Purple Knights were forced to punt for the second straight possession of the third.
It looked like St. Aug had caught a break, though, when the punt appeared to bounce off of a Curtis player before being recovered by the Purple Knights, but officials eventually ruled it was Curtis’ ball.
Two plays later, Wren took off down the right sideline for an 88-yard touchdown giving the Patriots a 22-14 lead with 11:47 to play. The Georgia commitment was largely held in check with his other nine carries going for 41 yards, but Guggenheim’s gashes of 52, 43 and 76 yards gave the Patriots all the firepower they needed despite their lowest scoring game of the season.
Sampson Jr. had a strong outing completing 15-of-24 passes for 167 yards with two scores and one interception while making a handful of impressive plays with his feet despite his rushing numbers suggesting otherwise. Senior running back Mahmood Bailey was also productive gaining 88 yards on 17 touches.
The Purple Knights had blown by relatively subpar competition through their first three games of the season, but proved they have the potential to compete with the Catholic League’s best.
Still, though, there were no moral victories to be taken from St. Aug’s perspective.
“There was no key, we lost the game,” said Purple Knights coach Nate Jones when asked what allowed his team to play Curtis so closely. “The key is when you win the game, when you lose there’s no key.”
“They’re a good football team,” said Curtis, who was much more complimentary of the Purple Knights than Jones. “I think we’re going to see St. Aug with a legitimate opportunity to compete for the district championship.”
John Curtis: 359 yards of total offense (355 rushing, 4 passing)
St. Augustine: 349 yards of total offense (182 rushing, 167 passing)
Rushing: Collin Guggenheim, 13-201, 4 TDs; Corey Wren, 10-129, 1 TD; Shane Goins, 4-13; Caleb Spann, 1-9; Antonio Alexander, 1-3.
Receiving: Javon Stoudemire-Davis, 1-4.
Passing: Collin Guggenheim, 1-3, 4 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT.
Rushing: Justin Doyle, 11-58, 1 TD; Mahmood Bailey, 12-53; Josh White, 3-38; Kendell Sampson Jr., 15-27; Tylie Keasley, 1-6.
Receiving: Khi Mathieu, 3-84, 1 TD; Mahmood Bailey, 5-35; Tylie Keasley, 1-17; Josh White, 2-14, 1 TD; Joe Miller, 3-13; Javen Nicholas, 1-4.
Passing: Kendell Sampson Jr., 15-24, 167 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT; Tylie Keasley, 0-1, 0 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs.
St. Augustine — Josh White 8 pass from Kendell Sampson Jr. (Jaron Marks III kick), 4:49, 0-7.
John Curtis — Collin Guggenheim 52 run (Austin McCready kick), 0:25, 7-7.
St. Augustine — Justin Doyle 1 run (Marks III kick), 9:09, 7-14.
John Curtis — Guggenheim 43 run (Guggenheim run), 1:57, 15-14.
John Curtis — Corey Wren 88 run (McCready kick), 11:47, 22-14.
St. Augustine — Khi Mathieu 42 pass from Sampson Jr. (Sampson Jr. run), 10:57, 22-22.
John Curtis — Guggenheim 76 run (McCready kick), 4:20, 29-22.
John Curtis — Guggenheim 1 run (McCready kick), 1:57, 36-22.
NEXT UP: John Curtis steps outside of Catholic League play next week to host Lake Placid (FL) Friday at 7 p.m. at Pan American Stadium. St. Augustine will also be back in action Friday at 7 p.m. taking on Brother Martin at Tad Gormley Stadium.