Titans Collide When No. 4 Grayson Meets John Curtis
Here's everything you need to know:
Battle on the Border VII -- No. 4 Grayson (GA) vs. John Curtis Christian (LA)
When: Saturday, Sept. 9, at 3 PM (CT)
Where: Independence Stadium, Shreveport, LA
What you should know about John Curtis:John Curtis (1-0) has tallied 26 Louisiana state titles all-time, but this undoubtedly hungry group of seniors has none. Head coach J.T. Curtis -- a Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Famer with over 500 career victories -- last notched a state championship in 2013. The Patriots will enter Saturday's contest ranked No. 1 in the state of Louisiana after a dominant 27-18 season-opening victory over No. 2 Landry-Walker last week.
What you should know about Grayson:The Rams (2-0) have one of the strongest junior classes in the country -- a group headlined by the nation's top-ranked linebacker, Owen Pappoe. Four members of that class are currently committed to Florida State. Two of those four players -- Kenyatta Watson and Wanya Morris -- joined Pappoe and Kenyon Jackson in simultaneously receiving four offers at once on Tuesday.
OffenseQuarterback Collin Guggenheim shared time behind center as a freshman, but the offense belongs to the uniquely seasoned sophomore in 2017. Guggenheim has been solid for the Patriots -- and success is made a bit more obtainable by the talent that surrounds him. Tight end Glenn Beal is among the best in the country. Running backs Marquese Albert and Darryan Washington are an excellent 1-2 punch on the ground, and wide receiver Tyrone Legette is a big-play threat in space. Case in point, Legette scored twice in the Patriots' victory last week -- including on a 95-yard kickoff return.
Grayson lost quarterback Chase Brice to graduation, but those close to the program remain excited about his replacement, transfer D.J. Irons. Through two games, Irons and the Rams offensive weapons have been largely ineffective through the air, but both have found success on the ground. Ronald Thompkins has carried the bulk of the load, tallying 238 yards on 38 carries thus far. Spelling Thompkins, senior Chris Thompson is averaging 8.7 yards per carry. Still Grayson found the end zone just once -- with nine minutes to play in the fourth quarter -- in a 12-7 win against a very average McEachern (GA) defense last week.
Advantage: John Curtis
DefenseThe secondary is the strength for John Curtis, which deploys one of Louisiana's best defensive backfields -- most notably, senior cornerback Brandon Davis. The trouble for the Patriots -- at least, as it occurred against Landry-Walker -- may be in the box. John Curtis surrendered over 200 yards of total offense to Landry-Walker running back Chad Alexander. Linebacker Jay Curtis can be found virtually any place on the field on any given down -- from a three-point stance to intercepting passes 20 yards downfield, as he did in the win against the Charging Bucs.
Simply put, the Grayson defense is elite. The Rams' linebackers -- Pappoe, Solomon Egbe, and company -- may well be the most talented group in the country, and they're surrounded by ability elsewhere. Jaylen Rivers, listed as a safety, is an attacker off the edge. Senior Ryan Taylor and junior Tru Thompson give the group a pair of DI-bound defensive tackles. The secondary is outstanding, with Jalen Alexander (20 scholarship offers) and Kenyatta Watson II (a Florida State commit). And, of course, we haven't even mentioned edge rusher Kevin Harris -- the eighth-ranked junior outside linebacker in the country -- who, aside from Pappoe, may be the best player on the team.
IntangiblesJohn Curtis is playing on its home state turf, and the Patriots' fan base travels well. Couple that with the big-game experience of head coach J.T. Curtis and the hidden intangible advantage would seem to lean in the direction of the Pats.
Advantage: John Curtis
Key MatchupJohn Curtis offensive line vs. Grayson's front seven
The Patriots returned three starters on the offensive line from a season ago -- tackle Cade Blalock, center Gideon Daniels, and guard Rory Thompson -- and the group was successful in keeping Guggenheim's jersey clean and opening running lanes in its season-opening win last week. But, as good as Landry-Walker is, Grayson is a different animal. Taylor, Thompson, and Harris are a nightmare up front, and Pappoe, Egbe, Rivers, and Herbert Winborne are as aggressive and athletic as any group of second-level defenders John Curtis will see all season.
Battle on the Border VII
Friday & Saturday, September 8-9 | 6 PM (CDT)Shreveport Independence Stadium, Shreveport, LA
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