Category Archives: High School Football
Russell High School is celebrating homecoming today.
This seems like a great day to get out of dodge, and I am.
Kansas City, here I come.
I have never cared for homecoming in a small town, and I never will.
The first big event is the parade through downtown starting at 2:30.
Parade? I saw too many of them growing up in New Orleans. If you’ve seen Rex once, you’ve seen it plenty. If you’ve seen Endymion once, you’re set for life. If you’ve seen Bacchus once, I question your sanity. I should have stopped going to parades many years before I actually did. I only went to Thoth in 1993 and ’94 because I knew plenty of krewe members. And Thoth takes a unique route, so standing on the corner of Henry Clay and Tchoupitoulas was worth it, compared to some place on St. Charles Avenue.
The homecoming court is presented BEFORE the game, unlike most schools in Louisiana, which do so at halftime.
To me, that’s a very bad way to do it. It forces both teams to warm up on the practice field to the north of the stadium, and at Russell, that is an especially bad deal. Russell has artificial turf, and most teams which visit Shaffer Field are not used to playing on it.
I can’t understand for the life of me why Russell and other schools around here can’t present the court at halftime and extend the intermission by five minutes. It wouldn’t inconvenience anyone.
Smith Center has a better plan. It names the king and queen at a school ceremony in the afternoon, and simply presents the court before the game after both teams are done warming up. The court walks along the sideline and doesn’t get in the way. Problem solved.
I believe Russell has too many people on its homecoming court. Does it really need eight “attendants”?
When I covered high school football in Louisiana, I was not a big fan of homecoming games. Halftime in those cases was 25 minutes instead of 15, and it sometimes pushed me pretty close to my deadline.
One time, I covered a homecoming game at West Feliciana which was played in a driving rainstorm, and halftime lasted 35 minutes. Worse, there was no phone line, so I had to dictate my story. The bad night culminated having to drive down narrow US 61. I nearly spun out at Thompson Creek. Today that isn’t a problem, as 61 is four-laned to Natchez.
I thought about going to Russell’s game this evening vs. Republic County, but I’ll pass. Today is such a nice day I might as well make the four-hour trip east on I-70. It will allow me to get a good amount of sleep for tomorrow, since I’m planning to be there at opening. LSU isn’t playing, but the Kansas Jayhawks are. Good for some laughs.
Baton Rouge Catholic is currently playing Archbishop Rummel of New Orleans (actually Metairie, an unincorporated area in Jefferson Parish) for the Louisiana “Division I select” high school football state championship in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in the Big Easy.
Rummel has widely been considered as Louisiana’s best high school football team this season. The Raiders’ lone loss was 10-3 to Don Bosco Prep, a powerhouse from Bergen, New Jersey. The Raiders won the Division I select championship in 2013 and the Class 5A championship in 2012, the last year public and private schools played against one another in the playoffs.
Rummel is a member of New Orleans’ Catholic League, which currently consists of seven all-boys schools. I attended Brother Martin, another Catholic League member. When I attended Brother Martin, the Crusaders never lost to Rummel, part of an 12-game winning streak over the Raiders between 1983 and 1994.
Since Jay Roth took over as Rummel’s coach in 1995, the Raiders have never lost to Martin. That’s 22 consecutive games. Roth is 206-45 in 21 seasons at his alma mater, and earlier this season, he passed the late Bobby Conlin, Brother Martin’s coach from 1970 through 1996, as the winnigest coach in the Catholic League. Conlin, who passed away in July 1997, only eight months following his retirement, was 203-100-5.
Roth played quarterback at Rummel from 1977-80 for his father, Easten Roth, who was the Raiders’ coach at the time. I met Easten when I was covering football in the Baton Rouge area for The Advocate. Great man. Easten still does radio in Ascension Parish for Dutchtown, East Ascension and St. Amant high schools.
Catholic had to win two games on the road in dramatic fashion to reach the final. It won 49-48 over Brother Martin in the quarterfinals after stopping the Crusaders on a two-point conversion in the final minute, then went to Shreveport and rallied from a 21-0 third quarter deficit to defeat Evangel 27-21. See my previous post for more about Evangel.
The Bears are coached by the legendary Dale Weiner, who is one of Louisiana’s greatest high school football coaches, but more importantly, one of its greatest men, period. He’s won 306 games during his distinguished career at four schools, and been at Catholic since 1997.
I had the good fortune to cover Catholic many times when I worked for The Advocate, and some of my most memorable games involved Weiner’s teams.
The Bears haven’t reached the finals since 1990, when they lost 52-10 to Ruston. Catholic began that game by recovering an onside kick, but it could only get a field goal, and the Bearcats then unleashed their full fury. That Ruston team is widely considered to be one of the best to play high school football in Louisiana.
Rummel and Catholic are tied 7-7 in the second quarter. Looks like it will go down to the wire.
Louisiana is holding four high school football state championship games tonight in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. This is the first of three days of championship games spaced over two weekends.
The reason two weekends are needed in the Bayou State is due to a ludicrous decision by the majority of high school principals to split schools into “select” (private, parochial, other religious, charter, magnet) and “non-select” (traditional public schools) divisions.
It was all because two small private schools, Evangel Christian Academy in Shreveport and John Curtis Christian in the New Orleans suburb of River Ridge, have been so good at football and are accused by many public–and some private–schools across the state as being nothing more than football factories.
The difference is Curtis has been doing it much longer. The school was founded in 1962 by John T. Curtis Sr., who wanted to provide New Orleans children with a alternative private school to the Catholic schools and the underfunded and overcrowded public schools. His son, J.T. Curtis Jr., took over the football team in 1969, and by 1975, the Patriots won their first state championship.
Many more state championships have followed. As in 25 more. J.T. is one of only two prep football coaches in the United States who has won 500 games in a career, and earlier this year, he was inducted into the National Federation (the national governing body of high school sports, headquartered in Indianapolis) Hall of Fame.
Evangel was founded in the 1980s by several ministers from an evangelical Christian denomination. Shreveport is hardcore Baptist, but strangely enough, it has had a Catholic high school, Loyola Prep, for several decades.
Evangel rocketed to prominence in the early 1990s, and by 1993, its fifth varsity season, won the Class 1A (smallest class) state championship. The Eagles moved up to 3A (the middle of the five football divisions) in 1995 and won three consecutive titles in 1996, 1997 and 1998.
In 1999, Evangel moved all the way up to 5A, the largest classification. In three of the next four years, the Eagles beat perennial Louisiana powerhouse West Monroe in the championship game.
What angered football coaches, fans and administrators was that not only Curtis and Evangel were so dominant, they were so small and dominating larger schools.
At the time, Louisiana schools had the option to play into a high classification than their enrollment dictated. One of the state’s most successful public schools on the gridiron, Monroe Neville, played up to the top class for almost 30 years before finally going back to playing where its enrollment dictated in 2001.
In late 2004, Louisiana principals passed a rule stating schools could not play up. It moved Curtis back to 2A (second smallest class) and Evangel to 1A, but it also had the unintended consequence of severing many longtime rivalries.
It hit hard for me.
My alma mater, Brother Martin, a Catholic all-boys school in New Orleans, saw its traditional rivalries in the New Orleans Catholic League severed due to the new rule.
Because of it, two members of the Catholic League, Holy Cross and Shaw, were forced down to 4A. Eventually, St. Augustine, an all-black school less than three miles from Brother Martin and the Crusaders’ fiercest rival, also had to go down. When the Purple Knights moved down, Brother Martin and two other Catholic League members, Jesuit and Rummel, had to move into a league with public schools.
The rule banning playing up was repealed in 2013, but with it came the split.
Mississippi and Texas have separate associations where private schools make up the entire membership. Private schools are allowed to join the public school association, but in Texas, only two, Dallas Jesuit and Houston Jesuit, have done so.
Louisiana’s system is beyond convoluted. I can’t explain it all here. There are four games for the “select” schools today. Next Friday and Saturday, there will be five “non-select” championship games int he Superdome.
Nine state champions. Kansas has only one fewer, so I can’t really say too much.
I have survived yet another 8-man football All-Star Saturday. I’m glad that comes around only once per year.
What is it going to take to get these coaches to move the games to nighttime? Face it–the vast majority of high school football games are played at night. The only games which are played in the daytime, at least in Kansas are a few high school playoff games on Saturday, the state championship games the Saturday before (8-man) and after (11-man) Thanksgiving, and those games at Weskan High School. Weskan is a microscopic hamlet not too far from the Kansas-Colorado state line on US 40. The stadium in the town does not have lights, meaning home games kick off at 2:30 p.m. Mountain Time. If Weskan somehow hosts a football game, it has to play it at Sharon Springs, the nearest facility with lights.
Even worse, why do the 8-man coaches insist on conducting their All-Star games in the middle of the day in June? Today was downright toasty. Temperatures near 90 (32 Celsius) with high humidity. The dew point was hovering near 70, which is more like it should be in Little Rock at this time of year. As bad as today was, it has been much worse in past years.
Is it going to take someone suffering heatstroke to get these coaches to change? Is it going to take someone dying or suffering severe damage to organs for this to change?
If I were a parent who had a son who was asked to play in this game, I would seriously consider not letting him play to send a message to the 8-man coaches association. They are playing God with lives. It is utterly ridiculous.
I also don’t believe there is the need for two games. One game would do just find. Expand the rosters to 30 players. Of course, by having two games, the 8-man coaches association can rip off more people with their outrageous ticket prices ($12) and contribute to our society’s desire to make everyone feel good and not teach them that disappointment is a part of life and it’s better they learn it now than later.
Yes, I am well aware tickets for the Shrine Bowl, the All-Star game in July, cost more than $12. However, all of the proceeds from the tickets are going to a great cause, Shriner’s Hospitals for Children. The ticket proceeds for the 8-man games could be going back into the coaches’ pockets for all I know.
I don’t have anything against Beloit. There are some wonderful people in Beloit. I love you, Cami Engelbert.
However, I would like to see the game at a larger facility with artificial turf. Newton and Salina, as I’ve mentioned before, are great ideas. So is Hays. If the coaches would like to continue to hold camp in Beloit, that’s fine. Then bus the kids to the game site. And if the coaches insist on two games, play one game Friday at 7:30 and the other Saturday at 7:30 (move it back 30 minutes as a concession to the heat).
Today was a mixed bag. The 8-man games rate somewhere between the ugly (Serena Williams winning the French Open) and the sublime (LSU winning on Chris Sciambra’s home run in the bottom fo the 9th vs. ULL in the first game of the super regional at Baton Rouge). As for American Pharaoh winning the Triple Crown, now those of us between 10 and 43 can now say we witnessed a Triple Crown winner. I was alive for Seattle Slew and Affirmed in 1977 and ’78, but even I couldn’t fathom horse racing at 19 months old.
I’m up before the sun this morning since I have to travel to Beloit for what has become an annual rite of June for me.
Today, the Kansas 8-Man Football Association will conduct its annual All-Star doubleheader at Beloit High School. There is a game for each division; the Division II game starts at 10 a.m., followed by the Division I game at 1:30 p.m.
Teams are divided strictly based upon the district assignments of the Kansas State High School Activities Association. Therefore, schools in districts 1, 2, 3 and 4 make up the East teams, and the schools from districts 5, 6, 7 and 8 make up the West squads.
That’s too simplistic of a way to select teams. Osborne, for instance, has its players on the East squad since it is a member of District 4 of Division I, but there is no way you can tell me Osborne is in eastern Kansas.
Eight-man coaches bitched for years and years about the lack of 8-man players in the Shrine Bowl, the annual All-Star game which is played later in the summer. In 1986, when there were fewer 8-man programs than there are now, the coaches decided to begin an annual All-Star game just for the 8-man players at Beloit. It was one game until 2001, when separate games were created for each Division.
The Shrine Bowl began in 1974. There are two players from the 8-man ranks selected for each squad, not many when you consider 68 players in all are selected. The 8-man coaches have begged for proportional representation in the Shrine Bowl, which would mean there would have to be eight or nine players on each squad from the 8-man ranks, since nearly one quarter of football playing schools are currently in the 8-man ranks.
I don’t understand why these games are played in the daytime. Most football games are played at night to begin with. The only day games are second round playoff games on Saturday for Class 3A and the two 8-man divisions, and the state championship games. Worse, why the heck do coaches want to play a day game in June, when it will more than likely be 90 degrees or above? Today’s highs are going to come close to 90, and as bad as that sounds, it has been worse. I can recall more than one day it was above 100. That’s just begging for heat exhaustion, or God forbid, heatstroke. The track athletes may love the hot weather because it’s easier to warm up, but they aren’t wearing all that equipment. The helmet may protect a player’s head, but it sure traps the heat.
Beloit supports sports and has some great people, but I would like to see these games played at a larger stadium, preferably one which has artificial turf. Newton, which hosts the 8-man championship games in November, would be ideal. So would Salina Central or Kansas Wesleyan, both of which have turf and the proper capacity. If Russell upgraded its visitors stands, then it could also be an option.
I’ve got my fluids and my sunscreen ready to go. Should be a hot one. I guess I have to pay the piper for the beautiful weather at state track last weekend.
I did it again. I negelcted yet another blog. Going ten days without a post is totally unacceptable.
On the other hand, there just hasn’t been much happy news to report. I’ve been mostly miserable, save for the football games I’ve had to cover. If it had not been for those football games, plus a trip to Topeka last Thursday, it would have been pure hell.
Going all the way back to the day of my last post, the Phillipsburg-Oakley game was the coldest sporting event I’ve ever covered. The temperature was 27 degrees at kickoff, and a biting south wind dropped the wind chill into the mid-teens. I could not wear gloves because I was trying to take pictures and write down each play as it went, and my fingers paid a heavy price.
As bad as it was with the cold, I nearly made it much worse. There four space heaters on Oakley’s sidleline–I did not go to Phillipsburg’s side because I wanted to avoid certain people from a rival paper–and I attempted to warm up my frozen hands by sticking one in front of the heater.
Terrible idea. It got so hot I had to pull the hand away immediately. I was afraid I had damaged nerves in my hand, but that wasn’t the case. My hands were still frozen, though, and I was fearing any longer in this weather would cause frostbite. Coincidentally, I was thumbing through an e-book about the Ice Bowl, the 1967 NFL championship game between the Cowboys and Packers in Green Bay where the temperature was 13 degrees below zero at kickoff, with a wind chill of 38 below. Quite a few players who played in the Ice Bowl received permanent frostbite from that day.
At halftime, I went to my car to warm up. Fortunately, I was parked right across the street from the entrance to the stadium, so I didn’t have to walk but a few feet. I ditched my camera for the second half and just took notes. At least I was able to put a hand in my pockets in between plays.
I stayed home the weekend after that game due to a forecast of snow. There was no snow, at least in Russell, and I didn’t have the best weekend. LSU got shut out by Arkansas, and all I wanted to do Sunday is sleep after eating my mother’s pasta.
It all began to go downhill a week ago Monday. It was the first day of practice for basketball and wrestling at high schools across Kansas, and I was asked to go take some pictures at Russell High. I really didn’t want to do it, because it was in the low 20s outside and I really didn’t feel like practice pictures could make that much of a difference, but they insisted.
I was very upset. I threatened to quit. I threatened worse. I began to send out desperate e-mails to people about how sad I was. I went out and got the pictures, but I still was not a happy camper.
The next morning, I went to visit my primary care physician, Dr. Shanon Custer, in Hays. We discussed my depression, and she said she would refer me to High Plains Mental Health in Hays. I agreed to go, and I ended up going the next day.
The visit to High Plains–where I was a patient many years ago–was routine and just was designed to get me back into the system. I have my first appointment with my counselor on Dec. 11.
Thursday was another trip to Topeka, this time to pick up a hand warmer at Dick’s Sporting Goods. That was a great idea, as I would find out the next night.
I wore my hand warmer at the Phillipsburg-Ell-Saline semifinal football game at Phillipsburg. I would put a hand inside the warmer, and it would immediately feel much better. No worries about frostbite this time.
The host Panthers dropped a 22-21 heartbreaker. They had the ball at the Ell-Saline 1-yard line with 17 seconds remaining, but a fumbled snap ended their hopes. The Cardinals earned a berth in the Class 2-1A state championship game this Saturday vs. Olpe.
I had to leave Russell before dawn Saturday to go to Newton for the 8-man Division Ii state championship game Saturday at 11 a.m. It was foggy the whole drive down, and the fog did not lift until late in the game.
Victoria easily defeated Attica/Argonia 52-8. The Knights led 36-0 at halftime and allowed the Titans, who scored 751 points in their first 12 games, just 163 yards.
I’ve been at the Wichita Marriott since Saturday’s game. I spent most of Sunday sleeping. I’ve got work to get done today and tomorrow. Back to Russell Wednesday.
While Kansas’ high school football playoffs are underway, Louisiana is playing the final week of its high school football regular season this weekend. It actually ends today with a few games in the New Orleans area, including my alma mater, Brother Martin, playing Archbishop Rummel at East Jefferson High School’s Joe Yenni Stadium.
Saturday high school football games in the Big Easy are common, especially for Catholic high schools. There are many more schools than available stadiums in the New Orleans metropolitan area, and teams must participate in a lottery for dates they want to host. The prime slot, obviously, is Friday night, but more often than not, schools must opt to play Thursday night, or Saturday, whether it be in the afternoon or evening.
Brother Martin is one of those schools which often plays on Saturday. The Crusaders use one of two stadiums located in New Orleans’ City Park, Tad Gormley and Pan American, as their home field, and thus must jockey with other schools for available dates. Last week, the Crusaders hosted Jesuit at Tad Gormley on Saturday.
The two Catholic high schools in Jefferson Parsih, Archbishop Rummel in Metairie and Archbishop Shaw in Marrero, NEVER get to use the stadiums at East Jefferson and West Jefferson, respectively, on Friday nights, save for the playoffs when the Jefferson Parish public school teams are either out of the playoffs or on the road.
Rummel has the land to build its own stadium, but instead makes the 10-minute drive on West Metairie Avenue to Joe Yenni, which has seating for nearly 10,000 and a Field Turf playing surface. Shaw has its own baseball field but has opted against building a football stadium around its existing practice field, instead driving through the Harvey Tunnel to West Jeff’s Hoss Memtsas Stadium, which is an exact copy of Joe Yenni.
Both Joe Yenni and Hoss Memtsas have spectacular press box views. At Yenni, you can see the Huey P. Long Bridge across the Mississippi River to the south, and at Memtsas, you can see traffic on the West Bank Expressway to the south, and downtown New Orleans to the northwest.