John Curtis is coming off a 14-0 season and the Patriots have a large amount of talent on the roster. The Pats' offense is predicated on the split-back veer option with two experienced quarterbacks - senior Patrick Morton (5-11, 195) and sophomore Abby Touzet (6-2, 220) - on hand to call signals.
Morton was averaging over 10 yards per carry last year before an injury cut his season short. When Morton was forced to the sidelines, Touzet stepped in and stepped up. John Curtis is expected to throw the ball more often the next couple of years with Touzet looking to '14 WR Malachi Dupre as his vertical threat.
Dupre (6-3, 175) got an offer from Southern Miss in the spring and three more (Ole Miss, Colorado and Tulane) this week. He caught a TD pass from Touzet in a 38-6 semifinal rout of Evangel Christian in 2011.
Morton is a chiseled athlete with the build of a hard-hitting strong safety. The John Curtis staff is excited that Morton has bounced back from last year's injury, and they held him out of contact during the spring as a precaution.
Plant will be breaking in a new QB after James Few graduated and signed with Cornell. The Panthers are well-stocked at wide receiver. '13 WR K.J. Walker is back, and he's joined by incoming transfer Tristan Cooper.
Cooper, the son of former LSU DBs coach (and current Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach) Ron Cooper, comes from Louisiana - adding another interesting storyline to this already significant contest between two teams that are both widely considered to be in the top 15 in the nation (Plant finished last year ranked No. 14).
Cooper already has a dozen offers, including a BCS offer from Iowa State. He previously attended University Lab School in Baton Rouge. A couple of years ago, University was eliminated from the playoffs by John Curtis, and Cooper is very familiar with what the Patriots bring to the table. Moreover, Cooper will bring added athleticism and leadership to a Plant team that already had more than ample amounts of both.
The arrival of Cooper was perfectly-timed, as it offset the bad news of '14 WR Austin Roberts' transfer out of state. Roberts, who has an offer from Miami, along several more schools, averaged 20 yards per catch last fall.
Plant welcomes back '13 WR Dereck Mann (30 receptions, 363 yards, six TDs), as well as '13 RB Wesley Bullock. The latter led the Panthers in 2011 in both rushing (1,308 yards) and receiving yardage (408). Bullock (5-6, 150) came through in the clutch in the state finals vs. Miramar, gaining 149 yards on 26 carries with a TD in his team's 31-20 victory.
John Curtis has nice depth in both its secondary and running back corps. The Patriots are paced in the secondary by seniors Richard Allen and Brandon Porter and Jacolby Cooper. Allen is a natural CB but played FS at times last year. He has an offer from McNeese State, which has also offered Porter (and four more Patriots). Cooper won state in the outdoor 400 meters.
Porter is a versatile athlete who could play LB, RB or S in college. He holds a recent North Texas offer. '14 CB Terrence Alexander was offered this month by Ole Miss. He stuck on receivers like glue at the U.S. Army Junior Combine in San Antonio.
John Curtis has other standouts in the secondary, such as '14 CB Mattrell McGraw, '14 CB Prine Lewis and '15 S Hunter Dale. All three are legitimate FBS prospects. McGraw had a crucial pick in the Curtis intersquad "Blue vs. White" scrimmage a couple of weeks ago. Lewis is camping at Texas A&M this weekend with Alexander, and Dale has as much upside as anyone on the team.
At RB, John Curtis uses a committee that's topped off by '13 back Sherman Badie. Last year Badie (offers from Tulane, Minnesota, Memphis and more) averaged more than 14 yards per carry and led the the team in rushing with close to 1,500 yards.
'13 RB Tevin Horton was second on the team in rushing in 2011. He excels at combines and in the weight room with a bench press of 425 pounds. Surprisingly, Horton - who is camping with Auburn tomorrow - doesn't have any offers yet.
The Patriots have two more "starting" running backs in '14 stars George Moreira and Raekwon James. Moreira (5-9, 195) was RB MVP at the NUC 5-Star Showcase a few months ago. James was MVP of the 2011 state finals (33-3 win over Winnfield) after he ran for 65 yards on six carries, caught two passes for 42 yards, and returned two punts for a total of 42 yards. He accounted for Curtis' first TD vs. Winnfield on a 45-yard jaunt and added the Patriots' second TD on a 42-yard reception from Touzet.
The Patriots have another upcoming young star in '15 RB Myles Washington, who impressed this spring.
Both Plant and Curtis have excellent offensive linemen. Plant boasts three-star OL Richy Klepal, a 6-4, 280-pounder with offers from BCS programs around the country. Klepal is accompanied by 6-7, 315-pound tackle Brenden Kellum.
John Curtis has two senior leaders up front in Tulane commit Brandon Godfrey (6-4, 280) and Anthony Taylor (6-7, 335). Taylor is the strongest player on the team, according to his teammates. Godfrey plays tackle but will shift down to center or guard in college.
At linebacker, John Curtis has a tackling machine in three-star Duke Riley. The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder carries virtually zero body fat and led the Patriots in tackles each of the past two years. '13 LB Eric Thomas (5-9, 230) threw the shot nearly 60 feet this spring. He's reminds people of current Florida State strength and conditioning coach Vic Viloria (played at John Curtis and SMU). Curtis also has '14 LB Kenny Young, a 6-2, 205-pound physical specimen who is returning from an injury.
Curtis outside linebacker/defensive end Fred Beauford is another experienced senior starter. Beauford had an excellent spring and is one of four Patriots (along with Horton, Thomas and Taylor) with a maximum bench press of least 425 pounds.
Plant has outside linebacker/defensive end Mitchell Wright, a 6-4, 220-pound hybrid with offers from the likes of Boston College. The Panthers also feature '14 LB Andrew Beck (6-3, 230).
In the secondary, safety Paris Bostick (pictured, bottom) brings the pain for Plant. He's the No. 102-ranked player in the nation at his position and has offers from Arkansas, Mississippi State, North Carolina State, West Virginia and South Carolina, among others.
Defensive line might be the biggest question mark for either team, other than Plant having a new starter at QB. Curtis does bring back '13 DL Cyle Cortez, a 270-pounder who recorded eight sacks as a junior.
John Curtis is replacing both offensive guards, so that's an area of concern for head coach J.T. Curtis, Jr., and his staff.
When current NFL RB Joe McKnight was a senior at John Curtis, the Patriots took to the road for a trip to Hoover, Alabama.
Hoover was ranked No. 1 in the country entering that (2006) year, but John Curtis downed the Buccaneers, 28-14.
The Patriots hope to duplicate that feat against another elite spread team in Plant. Both John Curtis and Plant have top-notch coaching staffs. The keys for Curtis will include: throwing the ball successfully - hopefully deep to Dupre - to keep Plant from loading up the box; not fumbling the football on pitches (always an potential issue with the triple option); and the play of the interior line on both offense and defense (Curtis has fresh faces on both units).
For Plant, keep an eye on their quarterback play. Few, the departed starter from last year, completed 65% of his passes and threw 29 TDs. '13 QB Aaron Banks was second on the team in passing (19-of-27, 212 yards, three touchdowns).
The Panthers would like to jump on Curtis early, especially on the road in New Orleans at a venue that is essentially in the Patriots' backyard. In the past, a sluggish start has been an issue for Plant, which went 14-1 last year.
All things considered, John Curtis appears to hold a slight advantage. Kicker Austin Linden nailed two field goals for Curtis in the 2011 state finals, and the outcome of this battle could hinge on an extra point or field goal by Linden.
Prediction: Curtis 24, Plant 20