Same time, same place and the same two schools. How well Catholic High can emulate parts of last year’s win over John Curtis will be a big factor.
The second-seeded Bears (11-1) face top-seeded Curtis (12-0) in the Division I select title game that opens the final day of the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic. Game time is noon at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
“No team is exactly the same and there are differences you can see in both teams,” second-year Catholic High coach Gabe Fertitta said. “We graduated a great group of seniors. In some areas we are stronger. We are more explosive on offense and I can see a maturity in the guys who played last year.”
Catholic beat Curtis 20-14 in the Division I title game that was the first-ever match-up between the schools. The Bears used special teams play to leverage field position successfully throughout the game.
“We have to make plus plays on special teams,” Fertitta said. “That means coming up to catch punts and not letting them roll 20 to 30 yards. In turn, we need to pin them deep when we punt. We also have to make tackles at the point of first contact when they set up returns.”
Cole Cazenave is averaging 47.3 yards per punt and as one of two Catholic kickers also has made 4 of 7 field goals with a long of 48 yards.
Curtis coach J.T. Curtis, completing his 50th season as head coach, also sees the game in basic terms of execution.
“I think you have to win the game on execution and the technique that you play. But, certainly, they (Curtis players) remember the loss to Catholic High,” Curtis said. “Any time you lose any game, but especially in the state championship, it’s a long lasting effect, no question.’’
Neither team relies on one player to power its offense. But the quarterback play of Catholic’s Cameron Dartez and Collin Guggenheim of Curtis is worth watching. Both were first-year starters last year and Dartez was voted the title-game MVP.
“We asked Cameron to manage the game last year,” Catholic’s Fertitta said. “We did not ask him to win games. This year we lean on him more and he has delivered. You could tell last year that Guggenheim was talented and learning. This year he has the whole playbook and is much more at ease.”
Dartez has 1,331 passing yards and 16 touchdowns, along with 314 rushing yards and 5 TDs. Guggenheim, a junior, has accounted for 23 TDs with 1,087 yards passing with 10 TDs and 963 rushing yards with 13 TDs.
Joshua Parker (1,086 yards, 15 TDs) of Catholic and Curtis’ Corey Wren (775 yards, 8 TDs) are other rushing leaders.
“The team that executes and makes the fewest mistakes usually wins … that’s football,” Fertitta said.