Will Curtis’ decision to play up save the LHSAA?
Although he waited until the second-to-last tick of the clock to submit his papers to the LHSAA, it was a no-brainer that J.T. Curtis threw the name of his father’s school into the Class 5A ring.
And a happy executive committee didn’t waste any time by adding the name John Curtis to its proposed basic district plan as a member of the Catholic League for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years.
The success of the school’s athletic teams has made John Curtis Christian School an ogre of sorts to public school principals and coaches, who have changed rules and classifications every two years to figure out how to stop the wheels of the “giant sports machine” from turning.
Well, J.T. took care of that himself, when, after conquering athletics in classes 2A, 3A and 4A, the nation’s second all-time winning football coach opted to try his hand at taking on the big boys and girls in Class 5A (or Division I, if that becomes its future designation).
But will it quell the ill feelings of public school principals, whose monstrous voting block trumps all others?
Hopefully, it will quiet them long enough for incoming executive director Eddie Bonine to devise a master plan for the future of the LHSAA that will satisfy the majority.
J.T. said he made the decision to play three classes above his school’s classification, dictated by its reported enrollment of 380 students, for the good of the LHSAA.
It’s well documented that Curtis’ football teams have won 26 state championships.
Their softball team is on a three-year Class 2A state title run, and the boys’ track and field team has four straight outdoor titles.
The Lady Patriots have won three basketball titles, the last in 2012. That same year, the boys also won a state title.
And if you dig back in the record books, you’ll see where baseball was once a dominant sport at the River Ridge K-through-12 school.
One Catholic school official quipped, “While we build chapels, they build trophy cases.”
Curtis’ preliminary entry into the Catholic League (and it will continue to carry that moniker), has drawn mixed emotions among the six traditional schools in that district.
Some say, “Bring ‘em on,” while others are feeling the same pangs public school principals have experienced decades of losing playoff games to the Patriots, whose sports programs overshadow the quality of the school’s curriculum.
The preliminary district plan for District 9-A over the next two school years has Curtis joining Archbishops Rummel and Shaw, Jesuit, Holy Cross, Brother Martin and St. Augustine in boys’ athletics. Curtis’ girls will join Mount Carmel, Archbishop Chapelle and Dominican.
With enrollments that would have placed them in Class 4A, St. Augustine and Shaw also chose to play up to maintain their Catholic League memberships.
The district is also trying to lure Chalmette into the group to have an even eight-team district. Chalmette, whose enrollment numbers since Katrina swelled to a whopping 1,709, will be a member of District 8-5A with Jefferson Parish public schools.
But adding that school to the Catholic League, in which it is a past member, would add the best athletic facilities in the three-parish area to the district.
Sound business decision
There’s money to be made for Curtis and the other Catholic League members by this association.
When Jesuit plays Brother Martin at Tad Gormley, the day starts early for the tailgaters along Marconi Drive.
Joe Yenni Stadium is packed to the gills with fans when Rummel hosts a Catholic League opponent. And when St. Augustine is winning, Purple Knights’ faithful number among the largest.
Holy Cross and Shaw also have respectable fan bases.
These schools enjoy great family and fan support from which Curtis will benefit. They pack the Pontchartrain Center for the state wrestling and volleyball championships.
While the Catholic League teams play their football games in stadiums that seat as many as 24,500 at Tad Gormley to 8,000 at Yenni and Hoss Memtsas stadiums, John Curtis plays its football games at Muss Bertolino Playground, whose seating capacity of 1,500 couldn’t accommodate Catholic League tailgaters.
Curtis told my colleague Ed Daniels that he plans to ask the city of Kenner for assistance in expanding the stadium. He said the businesses near the stadium will benefit if his home football games against the Catholic schools are played at Bertolino.
“I think it will be a tremendous economic boom for that area,” said Curtis. “Friday night, four or five thousand people moving in and out of that area is pretty good.”
Maybe the businesses that border Chateau Estates will volunteer to shuttle spectators to the playground with a limited parking area.
The only up-side for Curtis’ district opponents is that their fans will only have to endure Bertolino once every two years.
Can Curtis compete against single-sex schools whose enrollment figures number as high as 1,187?
Darned right it can. They’ve had series in the past against St. Augustine, Shaw and Holy Cross. They played Jesuit for the Select Division I championship in December and lost, 17-14. Curtis also played Rummel back in the mid-1960s when both were football fledglings. Rummel won, 26-7, I believe, but that was another era.
Curtis will be among the top three football teams in next year’s district. It will field one of the best boys’ track programs in a track-weak district, and its baseball team will be competitive.
The girls should dominate in a few sports. Catholic school opponents will be strong in volleyball and soccer, while Curtis’ girls will field competitive teams in basketball and softball. Track and field will be a toss-up for now.
So, unless there is an appeal at the second reclassification meeting on Feb. 25, expect to see a new era of Catholic League sports with an opponent whose entry was a long time in the making.
Girls’ brackets released
Mount Carmel will open its defense of its Class 5A basketball championship on Feb. 19 at home against district rival Archbishop Chapelle.
The LHSAA released its brackets on Lundi Gras and tabbed the reigning champion Cubs as a No. 5 seed. Chapelle, which has lost to MCA in all three of their district encounters, is a No. 28 seed.
Mount Carmel (18-12) will need to win three games to make it back to the 5A tournament in Lake Charles. One will have to be against No. 4 Destrehan (23-2), the team it beat for the 2014 title.
Cabrini (24-5) is the No. 5 seed in Class 4A and will host No. 28 LaGrange (19-8) on or about Feb. 19.
In other first-round games, No. 28 Dominican (15-12) will visit No. 3 West Monroe (27-4) in a Class 5A game; No. 26 Ursuline (14-14) will open at No. 7 Rayne (23-6) in a Class 4A match-up; and No. 25 Archbishop Hannan (18-9) will play at No. 8 Doyle (18-12) in a Class 2A game.