In the 30 years that USA TODAY Sports has done high school football rankings, there's never been a team from Louisiana that finished the season as the No. 1 team -- until now.
John Curtis Christian (River Ridge) plays in the second-smallest classification in the state yet has shown a willingness to take on all comers, from all classifications.
The Patriots from the New Orleans suburbs have won 28 in a row and this season outscored opponents 677-60, including a 33-3 defeat of Plant (Tampa), 2011 champion of Florida's largest classification, 8A. While coach J.T. Curtis now exchanges game footage online, instead of driving several hours, technology hasn't changed everything in the 44 years he has coached. "The needs of the kids have not changed," said Curtis, who doubles as the school's headmaster. "The same things that the kids needed 20, 30 years ago, they still need. They want to be loved, disciplined and work as a team. ... The team concept has not changed one bit." Curtis, selected last week as the American Family Insurance ALL-USA USA Coach of the Year, said sports are needed more than ever to replace the growing allure of gangs. "Gangs and sports teams usually have a name, they have their colors and they band together with a common goal," Curtis said. "We need to emphasize and support sports programs. It's better to be with these type of teams in a positive way, rather than a negative way." The success of the Patriots, whose alumni to reach the NFL includes New York Jets running back Joe McKnight, is not new. In 2006, they finished unbeaten and No. 2 in the Super 25. J.T. Curtis has won 25 state championships and has an overall record of 520-54-6, second in all-time wins only to the 601 by John McKissick of Summerville, S.C. "I've been on TV shows with him, but I don't know John personally," Curtis said. "Anybody who would dedicate himself to a high school program the way he has I would admire. Obviously, you're not getting into it at the high school level for monetary reasons. These are guys who have given their entire life to the school and community. I hope that will be copied by future coaches. If the only thing we get is a score out of sports, I'm not sure that it is worth it. There are intrinsic values that carry over to people's lives."