BY MATT VINES, Journal Sports
NEW ORLEANS – Taking advantage of an opponent’s miscue often determines the outcome of state championship games.
Union Parish couldn’t cash in on Many’s first-half mistake, and the Tigers secured their victory by scoring a touchdown off a Farmers’ second-half turnover as the No. 1 seed Tigers pulled away to a 35-13 win against No. 3 seed Union Parish (12-2).
Many (13-0) won its second state championship in three seasons and third since 2014, although the first two were in Class 2A with Saturday’s victory awarding the Tigers the first Division III Non-Select trophy.
Many’s seniors know what it’s like to perform on the biggest of stages as the Tigers played in their fourth straight state championship game.
But after winning the 2020 state title in Natchitoches, those 12 seniors got to celebrate in the Big Easy for the first time on Louisiana’s most iconic of football platforms. Many’s previous two state title losses (2019 and 2021) came in the Superdome, but the Class of 2022 wrote a much happier ending to their Caesars Superdome experience.
“We wanted to get it done in New Orleans, and we worked all year to get another shot,” said Many coach Jess Curtis, who has led the program to all three of their state titles in its history. “I’m so proud of these guys – four years – four championship games and two titles. I can’t say enough about what they mean to me.”
The early turning point came when quarterback Tackett Curtis fumbled on Many’s 13-yard line, creating an early opportunity for Union Parish after both teams stalled on long drives.
But the Many defense stood tall, forcing a missed 22-yard field goal attempt.
Curtis, a Southern Cal commit, made amends quickly, scampering 80 yards two plays later to put Many ahead 7-0.
“That’s this team – they answer every time we get punched in the mouth,” said Many coach Jess Curtis. “This defense is one of the best to come through our school.”
The Farmers boasted their own highly touted recruit in running back Trey Holly, and the LSU commit responded with a 63-yard touchdown run to pull the Farmers to 7-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Union Parish had a chance to take another lead when Holly converted a fake punt near midfield, but the Many defense turned away the Farmers again.
The Tigers offense punched the gas on the ensuing drive, resulting in a Trent Williams 13-yard touchdown run to snatch a 13-7 halftime lead.
And then Many had its turn to take advantage of Union Parish’s biggest mistake.
Many defensive back Tylen Singleton forced and recovered a fumble at the Farmers’ 32-yard line early in the third quarter.
Many finished the drive with a Jeremiah James 2-yard touchdown run, which included a James’ fourth-down conversion earlier in the possession. The Tigers led 21-7 after a James two-point conversion run.
Union Parish didn’t go quietly into the New Orleans night as running back Jy’Marion Island plunged in from four yards to slice Many’s lead back to one score at 21-13.
But the Tigers were too much as the offense added two more touchdowns while the defense forced several failed fourth-down conversion attempts.
Curtis scored his second touchdown of the night on a 3-yard run before James visited the end zone of for the second time as well on a 51-yard gallop.
Many gained the punishing rushing yards against a game Union Parish defense, softening it up for explosive runs to break the contest open.
“We felt like we could have a good night on offense, and our backs got the dirty yards and broke the big runs when they were there,” Jess Curtis said. “We basically had three rushers with 100 yards.”
James led the way with 140 yards on 17 carries with a pair of scores while Williams battered the Union interior with 102 yards on 16 attempts.
Player of the Game Tackett Curtis contributed 99 yards and two scores on just seven attempts, adding nine passing yards on 1-2.
Counterpart Holly did most of his damage in the first half, finishing with 115 yards and a score on 11 attempts. Holly is the state’s all-time leading rusher with well over 10,000 career yards.
“The defense played their tail off, and we knew we had to stop one of the best running backs in the country,” Jess Curtis said. “The adjustments made were on point.”
Island chipped in 53 rushing yards while Many made it difficult to go through the air as Union Parish quarterback Jorden Hill threw for 68 yards on 5-13.
The Farmers lost their third straight state title game, the first two on the Class 3A level.
The 22-point win is Many’s largest of the playoffs, having topped Class 3A members Richwood (21-0 in the second round) and St. James (32-13 in the semifinals). Many headed to Class 2A Rosepine and pulled out a 14-7 win in which the Tigers scored both touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
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