Prep preview: Patriots ready for title run


It's been quite a summer for John Curtis junior receiver Malachi Dupre.

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Dupre entered the summer as an unheralded member of the Patriots' Class 2A championship squad. After visits to several camps, including LSU's, Dupre finds himself one of the most discussed members of the class of 2014, and his offers from LSU, Florida State, Cincinnati and Ole Miss among others back that up.

"I camped at LSU and Tulane, and I did an individual workout with Ole Miss," Dupre said. "I didn't get around as much as I wanted to because I was playing a lot of basketball. I probably won't do that as much next summer, because it took up a lot of time."

The funny part is, despite the attention, Dupre has yet to start a game for a loaded Patriots team that went undefeated last season and figures to be the favorite in this year's title race.

John Curtis coach J.T. Curtis was quick to acknowledge his receiver's inexperience, but he said he understands the reason for the uptick in interest around Dupre's recruitment.

"He's got the ability to make catches in a crowd, and his 41-inch vertical certainly helps that," Curtis said.

The Patriots feature an absolutely loaded offense and, as expected, it focuses around the running game. Curtis' dynamic backfield of Sherman Badie, Tevin Horton and Raekwon James are sure to wreak havoc on opposing defenses all season. But with a senior quarterback returning in Patrick Morton, Curtis said he's excited to see what a threat like Dupre can bring to the passing game.

"The opportunity [to throw] will present itself because of the quality of our running backs," Curtis said. "[Dupre] has a unique ability to go up and get the football. You could attribute it to basketball ... but really I think it's just a natural gift."

Ready to repeat: At a school with 24 state championships, it's safe to say the Patriots are familiar with the goal of a repeat title. John Curtis has successfully repeated 11 times, with one repeat, one three-peat and two four-peats since 1975.

The Patriots were recently ranked No. 10 in the nation by ESPN. Their second opponent of the season, Tampa (Fla.) Plant, is ranked just behind them at No. 14. Repeat bids and national rankings are nothing new to a powerhouse like Curtis, but they're still something this year's team has to earn.

"Any time you're recognized for what you do, you appreciate it," Curtis said. "But the bottom line is you have to go to the field and you have to earn the respect of the people that you play and the people that rank you. Right now nobody has played a game."

Last year, then-juniors such as Badie and linebacker Duke Riley, last year's Class 2A Defensive Player of the Year, were key components to the Patriots' title run. As returning seniors, the goal is to follow up their predecessors.

"We're working hard, because that's our goal in December -- to win the state championship," Riley said. "It's big because we don't want to let anyone down, so we just take it one game at a time."

A game against a major power such as Plant, especially so early in the season, should help with that. Just two weeks into the season, the Patriots have a nationally relevant game to focus on -- and on the floor of the Superdome, no less.

"It boosts our confidence," Badie said. "When you prepare for Plant, it helps your prepare for the stretch run and December."