There’s always the possibility of a letdown with a matchup as highly anticipated as the one between Rummel and John Curtis Friday night at Joe Yenni Stadium.
It can be tough live up to the hype generated by two 8-0 Catholic League teams, but the Raiders and Patriots did just that in arguably the most epic matchup of the 2019 season.
It looked like Curtis was well on its way to clinching at least a share of its fourth straight Catholic League title taking a 14-0 lead into halftime, but Rummel roared back in the second half forcing overtime before coming up with a thrilling two-point conversion stop in the extra period to secure a dramatic 21-20 victory on a chilly November night.
“This was unbelievable,” Rummel head coach Nick Monica said of his team’s comeback effort. “I’m just extremely proud of them with the way they kept fighting, and we told them it wasn’t going to come easy. They had to earn it and they did.”
“This was definitely a dog fight,” added Vanderbilt safety commitment Donovan Kaufman, who made an impact in all three phases of the game as a defender, special teamer and occasional offensive threat. “We haven’t beat Curtis since I was in the eighth grade and I wasn’t on varsity yet, so this is my first time actually beating them and it was great.”
Rummel secured at least a share of the Catholic League title with Friday’s win. The Raiders have beaten both of the current second-place teams in Curtis and Brother Martin, but since there are no tiebreakers in the Catholic League, a loss to Jesuit in Week 10 would result in a share with the winner of the Curtis vs. Brother Martin matchup.
With the league title hanging in the balance Friday night, Rummel (9-0, 5-0) took possession first in overtime and got on the board with a 10-yard pass on third down from Kyle Wickersham to running back Logan Diggs. Senior Patrick Vanderbrook knocked in the ensuing extra point, and Rummel surged ahead 21-14 to begin overtime.
Curtis (8-1, 4-1) answered immediately, however, with a 3-yard touchdown run by Army quarterback commitment Collin Guggenheim on second down of the ensuing possession.
But instead of taking the extra point to force overtime No. 2, the Patriots decided to go for it.
They put the ball in the belly of senior Shane Goins, who got just inches away from the goal line before being stood up by senior defensive lineman Jordon Williams and junior defensive lineman Caboz Craig.
The huge goal line stop sent the Rummel sideline into a frenzy as Curtis dropped its first Catholic League game in its last 23 outings.
“(The coaches) wanted to go for two, the kids wanted to go for two and we felt like we had a little bit of momentum,” said Curtis coach J.T. Curtis of his decision to bypass the extra point. “They did a nice job of playing the play and they just did a better job than we did.
“There was no big strategy and it wasn’t a matter of being tired or anything. It just felt like we had a little momentum and let’s go for two and see what happens.”
Momentum had been hard to come by for the Patriots after putting their second touchdown on the board with 11:34 left in the second quarter. Rummel shut Curtis out through the rest of regulation and the Raiders made their push early in the second half.
Kaufman ripped off a 37-yard kickoff return to open the third quarter, and 15 more yards were tacked on to the run due to a facemask penalty.
Diggs then broke free for a 34-yard pickup down to Curtis’ 6-yard line, and the Raiders capitalized a couple of plays later when Wickersham found senior Ivory Wilright for a 10-yard touchdown cutting the deficit to 14-7 with 10:14 to go in the third.
The two teams then took turns exchanging four straight punts, but the final one was muffed by Curtis and recovered by Rummel’s Corey Smooth just outside the red zone. On the very next play, Diggs shook loose again for a 25-yard touchdown run knotting the score at 14-14 with 26.7 left until the start of the fourth quarter.
“The same thing happened during the St. Aug game (last week),” said Diggs, who had just three carries for minus-1 yard in the first half before finishing with 15 touches for 97 yards and two scores. “We started out slow in the first half but came out in the second half fired up.”
The two opposing defenses dominated the fourth quarter with both teams punting three times before time ran out on Curtis’ final drive.
Neither offense was particularly productive throughout the game with Rummel totaling 213 yards to Curtis’ 295, but 68 of those came on the first play from scrimmage when Guggenheim popped free for a long run.
The Patriots eventually went on to score on their first drive with Wren finding the end zone on an 8-yard run for a 7-0 lead just 1 minute and 48 seconds into the game.
Curtis then added to its lead a few possessions later after Patriots defensive end Marquis Martin forced a fumble that was recovered by Kylin White just 15 yards away from a score. A holding penalty pushed the Patriots back a bit, but they still took advantage of the excellent field position with Guggenheim dropping in a pinpoint pass to sophomore Javon Davis in the back of the end zone for a 14-0 lead just 26 seconds into the second quarter.
An explosive offense that came into Friday averaging 52.3 points per game just couldn’t get anything going from that point forward, though, against Rummel’s vaunted defense. They missed a 47-yard field goal on their next drive before time expired in the first half on the following possession, then punted five straight times in the second half before time ran out again on their last drive of regulation.
“We didn’t move the ball well in the second half and they did,” said Curtis, who knew a defensive unit that had given up just one touchdown all season would provide a stiff challenge for the Patriots.
“We didn’t do in the kicking game as well as we should have done and it cost us,” Curtis added. “We turned the ball over in the kicking game, gave up a big kickoff return and you just can’t do that against a good team.”
As Curtis mentioned during our pre-game interviews with both teams, though, there’s a distinct possibility these two will meet again in the playoffs. There are only 12 teams in Division I, and Rummel and the Patriots came into the week at Nos. 2 and 4, respectively in the LHSAA’s latest power rankings.
Tempers actually flared a bit after the game with no major altercations between the two teams, and there’s no doubt Part 2 would be another intense, heated match up no one will want to miss.
“We most likely will see them again,” Kaufman said. “It’ll be another dog fight and I’m looking forward to it.”
Rummel: 213 yards of total offense (94 rushing, 119 passing)
John Curtis: 295 yards of total offense (215 rushing, 80 passing)
Rushing: Logan Diggs, 11-72, 1 TD; Kyle Wickersham, 9-18; Jaelen Sturgis, 1-3; Donovan Kaufman, 1-1.
Receiving: Ivory Wilright, 3-38, 1 TD; Koy Moore, 4-27; Logan Diggs, 4-25, 1 TD; Tyler Cook, 2-15; Donovan Kaufman, 1-8; Keith Robertson, 1-6.
Passing: Kyle Wickersham, 15-25, 119 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs.
Rushing: Collin Guggenheim, 25-153, 1 TD; Corey Wren, 14-50, 1 TD; Shane Goins, 13-12.
Receiving: Javon Davis, 2-42, 1 TD; Corey Wren, 2-25; Joel Taylor, 1-13.
Passing: Collin Guggenheim, 5-8, 80 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs.
John Curtis — Corey Wren 8 run (Austin McCready kick), 10:12, 0-7.
John Curtis — Javon Davis 21 pass from Collin Guggenheim (McCready kick), 11:34, 0-14.
Rummel — Ivory Wilright 10 pass from Kyle Wickersham (Patrick Vanderbrook kick), 10:14, 7-14.
Rummel — Logan Diggs 25 run (Vanderbrook kick), 26.7, 14-14.
Rummel — Diggs 10 pass from Wickersham (Vanderbrook kick), 21-14.
John Curtis — Guggenheim 3 run (run failed), 21-20.
NEXT UP: Rummel will look to secure an undefeated run through the Catholic League Friday against Jesuit at Tad Gormley Stadium at 7 p.m. John Curtis will take on Brother Martin Friday at Yulman Stadium at 7 p.m.
Note: The original version of this story was corrected to note Rummel clinched a share of the Catholic League title with their win over Curtis rather than winning it outright.