We’re down to the last four teams in Division I, and three of the four semifinalists are Catholic League squads. No. 1 Rummel survived an all-out battle last week against St. Augustine to set up a Friday matchup against No. 4 Brother Martin, which dominated No. 5 Scotlandville, 46-13, in its quarterfinal contest.
On the other side of the bracket, No. 3 John Curtis took out No. 6 Jesuit, 34-27, in the quarterfinals, and they’ll take on No. 2 Catholic B.R. who eliminated No. 10 St. Paul’s, 28-10. This one will be a rematch of the last two Division I title games where both teams scored one win over the other.
So without further ado, let’s get into both matchups and where each team stands going into what they hope won’t be their final game of the season.
NO. 1 RUMMEL (11-0) VS. NO. 4 BROTHER MARTIN (9-2)
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Joe Yenni Stadium.
Last Week: Rummel defeated No. 8 St. Augustine, 35-34, at Joe Yenni. Brother Martin beat No. 5 Scotlandville, 46-13, at Tad Gormley.
Notable: While perhaps not expected, it was no surprise to see St. Aug put up a more than valiant effort last week against top-seeded Rummel. The Raiders’ defense looked less than impenetrable for the first time all season giving up 369 yards of offense and a total of five touchdowns, which was one more than they allowed through their first 10 games of the season. While one of those was just a 1-yard drive after a blocked punt, the other four covered 65, 41, 69 and 30 yards in 6, 4, 5 and 5 plays. The Raiders surrendered at least one play of 20 yards or more on each of the four drives, and they were none too pleased with themselves following the narrow victory.
Fortunately for Division I’s top seed, though, the offense came through with what was likely its best performance of the year. They put up 325 yards of offense with touchdown drives of 24, 43, 71, 62 and 57 yards in 7, 2, 5, 2 and 11 plays. The last of those drives was a perfectly executed 2-minute drill that ended with junior quarterback Kyle Wickersham throwing a bullet to senior receiver Ivory Wilright IV for the game-tying score with just 22 seconds left. Senior Patrick Vanderbrook knocked in the extra point for the 35-34 lead and Rummel’s eventual margin of victory in an epic contest. While the Raiders as a team had scoring outings of 37, 41 and 42 points earlier this season, all three of those games featured defensive scores. It was a clear role reversal for Rummel’s offensive and defensive units last week with the former delivering in a big way, and you can bet the latter will be a motivated unit looking to restore its name as Louisiana’s premier defense.
Sooo about that 24-21 Scotlandville pick last week — my bad. It was the second time the Crusaders have burned me on a pick with the other coming in Week 5 when I took the Purple Knights, 20-17, in what turned out to be a 27-7 win for Brother Martin. Just as they did on that occasion, not only did Brother Martin beat Scotlandville, they dominated the visiting Hornets from start to finish. An early 10-0 lead turned into a 17-7 advantage after a late second-quarter score by the Crusaders, who then blew the game wide open in the third. Sophomore quarterback Garrett Mmahat threw a pair of touchdown passes in the first four minutes of the half before a safety and an 11-yard rushing score from Chris Smith with 12 seconds to go in the third gave Brother Martin a commanding 40-7 lead.
As evidenced by Scotlandville’s 13-point output, it was yet another incredible performance by the Crusader defense. While Rummel’s defense has justifiably stolen the spotlight for much of the year, Brother Martin’s first-team unit has allowed more than one touchdown in a game just once this season in a 29-28 Week 9 win over Holy Cross. The Crusaders have a veteran group with nine seniors starting on defense, one of which ended the season as the Catholic League’s leading tackler with 78 in linebacker Trevor Tate.
They had a decent showing in the last Week 6 meeting against Rummel holding the Raiders to 30 points and 289 yards while being on the field for the overwhelming majority of the game. The bigger problem came on the offensive side of the ball as the Crusaders managed just 130 yards of offense while being shutout for the only time this season. Having seen the Raider defense first-hand should help Brother Martin this time around, but that experience may not be enough to overcome a re-focused Rummel squad that has arguably been the state’s top team all season.
Pick: Rummel, 21-13.
NO. 2 CATHOLIC-B.R. (11-0) VS. NO. 3 JOHN CURTIS (10-1)
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Olympia Stadium.
Last Week: Catholic-B.R. beat No. 10 St. Paul’s, 28-10, at Olympia Stadium. John Curtis defeated No. 6 Jesuit, 34-27, at Hoss Memtsas Stadium.
Notable: This one will be a rematch of the last two Division I state title games. Catholic took the first meeting in 2017, 20-14, but Curtis avenged that loss with an emphatic, 49-7, win last season. The Bears have been on a rampage ever since, however, winning all 11 of their games this season by an average of 29.7 points behind an explosive offensive attack. The offense has scored at least 41 points in all but three games this season and they’re averaging a whopping 47.9 points per game. Senior Jackson Thomas has been the leader of the unit at quarterback completing an absurd 72.7% of his passes (149-of-205) for 1,926 yards with 22 touchdowns and just one interception. Senior Jalen Toaston has been his go-to target reeling in team highs in receptions, yards and touchdowns with 30, 616 and 8, but the Bears also have five other players with at least 16 catches for 159 yards.
Another senior in Josh Parker handles the majority of the carries out of the backfield with 111 totes for 1,036 yards with 12 touchdowns. Four other players, though, also have at least 33 carries for over 300 yards including Thomas, whose second on the team in rushing with 74 carries for 427 yards and 7 touchdowns. Defensively, Catholic has been stout for much of the season forcing 22 turnovers with 17 of those coming by way of interceptions. Junior Connor Stewart and sophomore Joshua Wax lead the team with four picks each. In short, Catholic has really been nothing short of dominant this season with signature wins over University Lab (30-25), Karr (47-12), St. Thomas More (52-50) and East Ascension (41-6), and they have as good a chance as anyone of walking away with this year’s Division I title.
Curtis accomplished the always-challenging task of defeating an opponent twice in one season with last week’s win over Jesuit. The Patriots got off to a quick start scoring three straight touchdowns to take a 21-7 lead in the first half before holding off a late charge by the Blue Jays. Georgia running back commitment Corey Wren had yet another strong outing rushing for 97 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries. That increased his season totals to 1,146 yards with 17 scores on 98 attempts, all of which are second on the team behind Army quarterback commitment Collin Guggenheim’s 123 carries for 1,168 yards with 19 touchdowns. It was a modest effort on the ground from Guggenheim just as it was in Week 10 against Brother Martin. He’s had just 21 carries for 76 yards over the last two weeks as the Patriots have tried to limit the hits he’s taken after a 24-carry, 158-yard performance against a physical Rummel defense in Week 8. His passing numbers have been on the rise, however, as he’s completed 11-of-18 attempts for 309 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions over the last two weeks. The senior topped 100 yards through the air in both games, which was his first time doing so since Week 3 against Landry-Walker. Like Catholic, Curtis has been nearly unstoppable offensively averaging 46.2 points per game.
Defensively, the Patriots have a few impact players led by defensive ends Angelo Anderson and Marquis Martin, but all signs point to a shootout Friday night at Olympia Stadium in a rematch of the last two Division I title games.
Pick: John Curtis, 38-35.