During the offseason, we’ll check out one team per week that looks like a sure bet to be among the best in the nation this fall.
This week’s team: John Curtis Christian (River Ridge, La.)
Projected 2012 Preseason Ranking: Top 20. It was a historic season for the Patriots last fall, not so much for their 24th state title but when coach J.T. Curtis -- who has been leading the football program at the school named for his father since 1969 -- won his 500th game. Curtis became just the second coach in U.S. history to achieve that many wins and ended the season at 506-54-6. The only coach with more wins is 85-year-old John McKissick, who's still coaching at Summerville (S.C.). The numbers should continue to accumulate in 2012 and the national ranking could be much higher as well. Almost all of the top players from last year will be back. And if the Patriots get past probable FAB 50 preseason ranked Byrnes (Duncan, S.C.) at the Allstate Sugar Bowl Prep Classic in September, they could be pushing for the top 10 or higher.
Team Strengths: Breakaway speed on offense and an outstanding linebacker-secondary corps on defense gives the Patriots much to build on. Offensively, junior running back Sherman Badie earned Class 2A all-state honors after rushing for 1,239 yards and 19 touchdowns on only 87 carries (14.2 yards per carry). Sophomore Raekwon James scored a pair of touchdowns in the 33-3 win over Winnfield (La.) in the state championship and ran for 761 yards and 11 scores on the season. And junior Tevin Horton rushed for 765 yards and 12 scores. Quarterback Abby Touzet is just a freshman, and although the Patriots are a team that doesn’t throw much, he did gain valuable experience. Another plus on offense will be the return of lineman Anthony Taylor (6-7, 330), who is yet another of the team’s major college prospects. Defensively, Class 2A Player of the Year Duke Riley will lead the returnees. The linebacker is perhaps John Curtis Christian’s best overall player. Junior Richard Allen will lead the secondary.
Another Louisiana team to watch: Karr (New Orleans) motored to an 11-4 season in 2011 and made it to the Class 4A state final, where it lost to Neville (Monroe, La.) 27-6. It was a Cinderella ride that should be followed up by a season of higher expectations since so many top players for the Cougars were underclassmen. Sophomore quarterback Devante Noil passed for 1,654 yards and 26 touchdowns and rushed for 772 yards and eight scores. Also returning will be tight end Standish Dobard, a Miami commit rated No. 131 in the ESPN 150, and Noel Ellis, who’s rated the nation’s No. 17 cornerback by ESPN. The defensive line for Karr should be tough as well due to the expected return of junior Titus Charles and standout sophomore Gerald Willis.