Quarterfinal Preview: C.E. Byrd at John Curtis

By LEE BRECHEEN, Louisiana Football Magazine

I am very excited to see the outcome of tonight’s matchup between Byrd and John Curtis in a collision of two tradition-rich programs.

This is an evenly-matched game with talent, depth and experience about the same for both clubs.  I have to give the edge to Byrd because of the Yellow Jackets’ four-year starting QB, Lake Lambert, who has state title game experience, and many playoff games under his belt.

Both teams run the ball 95 percent of the time. This game might not last much longer than a couple hours. The only advantage I see John Curtis has is the playoff site – they have won a lot of games, and championships, at Joe Yenni Stadium in Metairie. I also have to say it’s hard to discount the great coach of the Patriots, J.T. Curtis, who next season will become the winningest prep football coach ever in the USA. But Stacey Ballew and the Byrd staff are not outfoxed, either.

I have seen both teams play in 2022. Let’s go over how close these two programs are in talent and depth.

The QB spot is a strength for Byrd with Lambert. He could be the difference in this game with his feet and if he throws the ball he’s pretty efficient.  John Curtis has a new starter at QB  in senior Jordan Smith, who does a good job running the offense but he is not really strong in the passing game. You might also see at Dagan Bruno play some for the Patriots.

In the trenches, usually John Curtis has the edge here, but not this year. The Pats  are smaller than usual and where they are big, they are young. Curtis is led on the offensive and defensive lines by Zachary Drake (6-3, 190), DE/OLB John David Morter (6-0, 245), DT Logan Barnes (5-10, 270), OL Richard Newby (6-0, 255), Andrew Martinez (6-3, 275), OL/TE Bryce Godfrey (6-3, 270), and Joshua Teague (6-2, 245). Most are seniors with good size but they’re not deep as a team in the trenches.

Byrd will counter up front with All District OLB/DE Isaiah Ford (6-4, 210) and DE/OLB Wyatt Watkins (6-3, 210), two guys who could be a problem for Curtis to block. The Yellow Jackets also have a veteran offensive line led by Jackson Rust (6-4, 205), Kailen Moore (6-4, 230), Noah Slaughter (5-11, 240), and veteran DT Brennan Belanger (5-10, 230). I give the edge to Byrd in the trenches.

In the ball-handling spots, I think it’s almost even. Byrd has a great WR in senior  Jackson Dufrene (6-4, 185), a deep group of RB’s in Josh Allen (5-9,180), Devon Strickland (5-10, 198), and all-purpose player Tyler Nichols (5-7, 180). John Curtis will bring about the same amount of talent to the field in RB Marlon Prout (5-8, 170), RB Jason Gabriel (5-10, 185), WR Tyler Mitchell and RB Liam Cohen.

Both teams have big-time leaders on defense. For the Yellow Jackets, it’s four-year starting LB Brooks Brossette, who plays much bigger than 6-0, 200 and is almost like a coach on the field. Other Byrd defensive standouts are CB Lamichael Taylor (5-9, 165), and Christian Jones (6-0, 180).

John Curtis has a bell cow in OLB Justin Horne (6-2, 220), a well-regarded senior prospect. Other Patriots to watch are DE Austin Ackel (6-3, 220), and SS Blake Wibel (5-10, 175), who is a big-time hitter.

In special teams, it’s even, which for Byrd fans is hard to swallow. The Jackets have one of the best kickers in the United States in Abram Murray (6-0, 205), with range to 60 yards and extreme accuracy. The Patriots boast All American long snapper Jason Dudenhoeffer (5-10, 165), and punter Josh Eames (6-0,185) will punt for some FCS program next year.

I am picking Byrd to advance in a contest that will go down to the wire, a “who has the ball last” type of game. It won’t be high scoring because both teams run a lot and the clock will not stop much. The Jackets and Patriots will be limited to how many times they get the ball in a clean game.

I hope you’ve enjoyed a happy Thanksgiving, and if you’re headed south, try some oyster dressing while down in the Crescent City. 

HOLIDAY REMINDER: You still can go to our website, lafootballmagazine.com, if you’re a parent or fan and order your 2022 Football Preview Magazine, either the North or South issue, or both. It will be interesting to read preseason outlooks and compare them to the playoff realities. Our magazine covers all the high schools and colleges in Louisiana. 

Contact Lee at lbrecheen@aol.com