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December 24, 2012

John Curtis collects first national title

FINAL RIVALSHIGH100: See the full list.

After a dominating season that resulted in the program's 25th state title, River Ridge (La.) John Curtis Christian will have to clear room in the display case for its first High
School Football National Championship trophy.

Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

Head coach J.T. Curtis joked that finding space shouldn't be
a problem.

"I guess we will have to squeeze it in there," he said. "We will find a place for it right in the middle of all the others and proudly display it."

John Curtis Christian, a small, faith-based school just a handful of miles west of New Orleans, was founded in 1962 by J.T. Curtis' dad, John.

The football program started in 1969. J.T. Curtis is the only coach the school has known. And there's a pretty good reason he's never been asked to leave.

Curtis has won 90 percent of the games he has coached, going 520-54-6 in 44 years. The record is even more impressive when you consider this: The team went 0-10 in its first year of existence.

It has been rolling ever since. Curtis has led the school to a state title 25 times across three levels. He has advanced to a state-title game the past 17 seasons, winning 13 times.

He credits this RivalsHigh100 championship to all of the players who came before the current class.

"There are no one-year wonders that win a national title," Curtis said. "The players of the past all had a part in this. Without what they had done and proven in the past, this wouldn't have been possible.

"Success breeds success, and the players we have here competing right now are at this level because of those who came before them."

The team that took the field this year was one of the most talented in the nation. It could have as many as 17 players sign college scholarships -- six seniors are committed to FBS-level programs, two have offers, six players in the Class of 2014 have offers and one from the Class of 2015 does as well.

Running the split-back veer offense, the team was keyed by two FBS-level running backs, Tevin Horton and Sherman Badie.

Badie carried 69 times for 814 yards and 18 touchdowns, while Horton was responsible for 743 yards on 71 carries.

Curtis said the combination was difficult for opponents to stop.

"Badie is explosive and physical," Curtis said. "At 208 pounds, he's running a 4.35 at college camps and, combined with his vision, it was impressive. And Tevin is a similar type of back. There was no break for the defenses."

Curtis was so far ahead in its games that the two did not combine for half of the team's 388 carries or its 3,500 yards on the ground.

Depth at this, and most positions, separated the team from the pack.

[CURTIS HOLDS OFF TWO TEXAS TEAMS: See the final poll]

"Our game plan was to rotate in six running backs," Curtis said. "We also planned on using two quarterbacks, seven defensive backs and a rotating defensive line."

The backup quarterback for Curtis, Abby Touzet, led the team to a state title as a freshman while filling in for starter Patrick Morton, who went down in the middle of last season with an injury.

Having both on the roster was an embarrassment of riches.

"Patrick fueled a lot of people in the locker room and on the field," Curtis said. "It was his competitive spirit that drove the team."

Morton completed 67 of 107 passes for 1,488 yards. He had a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 19 to 2 and carried 33 times for 173 yards.

The passing attack made this team different from those in the past, Curtis said.

"We were more explosive in the passing game and more balanced offensively than teams we have had previously," he said. "Guys like Malachi Dupre and the other receivers allowed us to do a lot more than usual."

Dupre, one of two Patriots ranked in the Rivals250 for the Class of 2014, caught 36 of the team's 82 completed passes for 816 yards.

So far at Curtis, Dupre has won two state titles in football, one in basketball and an individual gold medal in track despite not participating in the full season.

His coach said Dupre has NFL potential.

"He is as good a football player as I have seen here, and we have had NFL players in the halls," Curtis said.

If there is another player who could join him on Sundays, it would be inside linebacker Kenny Young, who led a defense that scored as many touchdowns (3) as it allowed. Factoring in four special teams touchdowns, the offensive scoring was superfluous.

Joining Young at the linebacker position was all-state selection Duke Riley, who led the team with 124 tackles (94 unassisted) and eight sacks.

"We just had so much talent and speed on the defensive side of the ball that we never allowed a big play," Curtis said. "Teams could not handle us up front; then if they did get to the linebackers they usually didn't get beyond that level. The secondary was so fast and supportive that there was nowhere to go."

The defense recorded seven shutouts and did not allow an opponent to score more than one touchdown. The team recorded 27 takeaways during its 14-game season.

According to Curtis, the run to the program's first national title was as special as he imagined.

"It really is something that you don't think about, but it has some kind of magical feeling to it," Curtis said. "To win the highest award you can achieve as a high school team is special. It is humbling to have it happen and have your name mentioned in the same class as other really great teams nationally.

"I am proud of this team and honored to be given this title."



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