Curtis wins, Byrd hugs the season goodbye

STOPPER:  Senior linebacker Brooks Brossette posted 21 tackles Friday night in the state quarterfinals but John Curtis overwhelmed Byrd. (Photo by APRIL NIX JOHNSON, Journal Sports)

By JERRY BYRD, Journal Sports

METAIRIE – With just under a minute left in C. E. Byrd’s 35-14 loss to John Curtis in a LHSAA Select Division I quarterfinal playoff game, Yellow Jacket senior linebacker Brooks Brossette read his keys, attacked the line of scrimmage, and made a tackle. 

It was the final play of Brossette’s high school career.

It was a fitting end for Brossette, but not the one he wanted for his team … or for his coaches.

No. 9 trotted to the sideline and hugged the neck of Byrd defensive coordinator Jason Pope, then headed to the bench and found another neck to hug.

“Man, that’s my guy from day one,” an emotional Brossette said of his defensive coordinator. “Since my freshman year, he has been there for me. I look up to him a lot and he expects a lot from me.” 

In his final game, Brossette recorded 21 tackles, 13 unassisted. It gives the linebacker 233 tackles for his career and moves him to No. 2 on the all-time Byrd list behind only Paul Dupee and his 265 tackles.

But football is a team game, and the John Curtis Patriots made plays in all three phases on their way to a 28-7 halftime lead and a dominant win Friday night at Joseph S. Yenni Stadium.

“We had a great week of practice,” Brossette said. “We thought we had a plan to get it done, but it didn’t work out for us tonight.”

On the other sideline, things worked out well for Patriot Marlon Prout, the game’s leading rusher, who scored on the game’s third play – a 42-yard run up the middle of the Jacket defense. 

Prout, who finished with six carries for 120 yards — all in the first half — would add another score with a 39-yard run around left end with 1:27 left in the first half. 

“Prout has done a good job for us all year,” John Curtis head coach J.T. Curtis said. “A couple of those he had some decent blocking. Some of that he did it on his own. He is just that kind of back. When he can perform like that he makes me look good as a play caller – or I should say, Jeff (Curtis, offensive coordinator) as a play caller.”

Byrd could not get a first down on its next possession and the Patriots made the Jackets pay as John Curtis quarterback Dagan Bruno found Michael Turner on a deep post for a 61-yard touchdown pass with :15 remaining in the half.

“Defensively, I told them not to give up the big play,” Byrd head coach Stacy Ballew said when asked about the message to his team at halftime. “Make them drive it. Big plays killed us. You cannot give up big plays, and that’s at any level of ball. Hats off to them. They’re a great team.”

The Jackets’ only score in the first half came on a 4-yard touchdown run by Desmond Simmons, which came on Byrd’s first possession of the second quarter and tied things up, 7-7. The score was set up by Byrd’s biggest play of the night, a 48-yard pass from Lake Lambert to Jackson Dufrene.

But the Patriots’ defense scored on 24-yard scoop-and-score by cornerback Jermall Callio with 6:04 left in the first half, a haunting turnover that began a disastrous stretch for Byrd as a 7-7 tie ballooned into a 28-7 John Curtis halftime lead.

On special teams, the Patriots blocked a 55-yard field goal attempt by Byrd junior Abram Murray. 

The only other time John Curtis and Byrd played was in a 2020 semifinal at Lee Hedges Stadium. On a rainy night, it came down to a missed extra point by the Patriots as the Yellow Jackets won 14-13.

J.T. Curtis did not talk to his team much this week about getting revenge for the loss, but he did talk to them about the importance of special teams. And disappointment. 

“It was a one-point loss (in 2020) and very disappointing,” the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame coach said. “The emphasis was that we didn’t want to put ourselves in a position where it would come down to a field goal, because they have a good guy (Murray). That blocking the field goal was huge, huge for us. We didn’t want to put it in the hands of a special teamer.”

Curtis also credited the defense for stifling the Byrd offense.

Byrd’s Lambert, who had the most prolific night of any quarterback in school history with his 267 yards against Alexandria Senior High in last week’s 49-10 regional win, was held in check by the Patriot defense. Lambert finished with 65 yards rushing on five carries.

Jacket running back Tyler Nichols scored on a 1-yard run with 10:35 left in the game to make it 28-14, but it was too little, too late for the Jackets.

John Curtis had the final score of the game, a 1-yard run by Bruno with 3:42 left.

Curtis finished with 321 yards rushing on 52 carries. Byrd had 199 yards on 36 attempts.

Ballew’s message to his seniors after the game was heartfelt.

“No. 1, we love them to death,” Ballew said. “No. 2, Byrd High School is always their home. This is their team.” 

Contact Jerry Byrd at sbjjerrybyrd@gmail.com 

Curtis 35, Byrd 14 

Score by quarters

Curtis | 7 | 21 | 0 | 7 | – 35

Byrd | 0 | 7 | 0 | 7 | – 14

Scoring summary

JC – Marlon Prout 42 run (Jaden Alphonso kick)

B – Desmond Simmons 4 run (Murray kick)

JC – Jermall Calllio 24 fumble return (Alphonso kick)

JC – Prout 39 run (Alphonso kick)

JC – Michael Turner 61 pass from Dagan Bruno (Alphonso kick)

B – Tyler Nichols 1 run (Murray kick)

JC – Bruno 1 run (Alphonso kick)

Individual leaders 

Rushing 

Byrd (36-199) – Lambert 13-159, Jackson Dufrene 1 16, Devon Strickland 8-15, Simmons 2-5. 

Curtis (52-321) – Prout 8-120, Kaheam Smith 6-78, Aaron Johnson 13-42, Bruno 12-34.

Passing 

Byrd – Lambert 2-6-1-54. 

Curtis – Bruno 4-7-0-90.

Receiving 

Byrd – Dufrene 2-54. 

Curtis – Turner 2-68, Tyler Mitchell 2-22.