In one split second in time, it all made sense.
Suddenly, an offseason of brutal conditioning work all seemed worth it.
Suddenly, the lessons learned from an agonizing first-round playoff loss the season before didn’t seem quite as painful.
Suddenly, decades of being the program forced to endure so much ridicule from fans of nearby rival didn’t seem as futile.
In that one split second in time, decades of despair were gone. A program that had never won a single postseason game was now a state champion.
History was made as the first Lafayette Parish school ever to win a football state championship.
The Carencro Golden Bears were on top of the high school football world.
“It still feels great 20 years later,” said Dexter Babineaux, a senior offensive tackle on the 1992 title team. “It’s an accomplishment you’ll never forget.”
That “split second” that produced the great achievement was a partially blocked extra point by All-State defensive tackle Joe Bellow that proved to be the difference in Carencro’s 28-27 overtime victory over longtime powerhouse Neville in the Louisiana Superdome.
As expected, Bellow’s game-winning effort set off a celebration like no other the Superdome had ever seen.
“That first championship you win is very special,” said Kevin Faulk, who was a sophomore quarterback and the game’s MVP.
“What made that championship so special is that it was about community. It meant, and still means so much to the people of the community. The whole community came together. The whole town was in the Dome that night.
“For everyone to have that feeling is still very special. It’s something none of us will ever forget.”
While that game-winning moment in overtime was the shining play that allowed the Bears to raise the state title trophy, Carencro’s run to the state title was filled with so many pivotal moments, players and plays that led to one of the most exciting eras of success the Acadiana area has ever known.
“You work so hard to get to that point and then when it happens, it’s actually a very humbling moment,” former Carencro head coach Mac Barousse said. “It’s humbling when you think about all the great coaches that coached for their entire careers and never got to that point. Coaches who were much better than I was. I grew up with one of them. When you think about it that way, it’s a big deal. It’s pretty important.”
The first moment that led to that 1992 state title was actually the final play of a double overtime first-round loss to Neville that ended the 1991 season. That group of Bears was convinced it was good enough to maybe win a state title if the ball had bounced its way. Ironically, that loss was to none other than Neville.
“That ’91 team might have actually been a better team,” Babineaux said. “That team might have had more talent.”
“Let’s just say we were very, very motivated for the ’92 season after the way we lost in ’91,” Barousse said.
After an offseason of preparation, there were several challenges during the regular season. There was obviously the one loss of the season — 24-10 to Warrick Dunn-led Catholic High of Baton Rouge — in a game that Faulk said he and Dunn have relived several times over their pro careers.
There was a close call in a 16-10 road win over East Ascension that junior defensive end Nick Allemond remembers produced perhaps the most underrated run of Faulk’s storied career.
“It was only about a 7-yard run and I think Kevin got hit by all 11 guys on defense and still scored,” Allemond said. “He had a shoe pulled off, his jersey was ripped but he was just determined to get into the end zone.”
“Yeah, I remember that run,” Faulk said. “And I’m laughing just imagining the way that Nick explained all the details of that play.”
Later there was a hard-fought 16-7 win over Northside to wrap up the district title.
The game that many still speak about to this day, however, was a close call, 25-21 win over Shaw in the second round.
“We were down by two touchdowns,” Barousse said. “We ran a reverse to return the second half kickoff. Then we had a long scoring drive where we gave Ernest (Lazard) the ball about 15 times.”
Then late in the game with Carencro now up, Faulk fumbled the ball and longtime Shaw fans will claim to this day that the Eagles recovered .
What followed that game was a trip to New Orleans and a sound 34-7 thumping of St. Augustine at Tadd Gormley Stadium in a game that clearly illustrated how talented the Bears’ backfield of Faulk, Lazard and Derrick Beavers really was.
“It was the first time we had gotten all of that speed on turf,” Babineaux said. “With Kevin and Derrick and Ernest and then Chad Arnaud, our offense just couldn’t be stopped. That was probably the best game I’ve ever played on offense.”
After getting through a mud pit semifinals game in Baton Rouge to beat Glen Oaks 32-18, the Bears returned to New Orleans to take on none other than Neville and legendary coach Charlie Brown for the state championship — the very team that eliminated them early in the 1991 playoffs.
Faulk was named the game’s MVP after scoring on a 37-yard run and throwing a 30-yard TD pass to Arnaud. But it was Lazard that got it done in crunch time with a 30-yard TD run with 2:11 left in regulation to tie it and then scored Carencro’s touchdown in overtime.
Barousse and Company wouldn’t win another state championship. They returned to the state finals in 1996, but lost 24-21 to the Monroe area’s new powerhouse in West Monroe. They wouldn’t return to the Dome again until 2011, again losing to West Monroe.
None of that, however, did anything to dim the legend of the 1990 Carencro Bears throughout the area and around the state.
“They definitely had a mystique about them,” three-time state championship coach Lewis Cook said. “They had some marquee athletes and they brought a lot of attention to the program.”
Perhaps no one fully understood how popular the Bears were in the 1990s than longtime athletic secretary Brenda Olivier. During that 1992 season, Olivier walked into Carencro’s coaches office with the phone ringing off the wall. She had a son and a daughter at Carencro at the time.
The story goes that Barousse asked her if she wanted a job answering phones and dealing with the details to get him through the busy playoff season. Two decades later, Olivier is still Carencro’s athletic secretary.
“I didn’t know anything about football then and I still don’t, but it’s been very exciting,” Olivier said. “In the 1990s, it definitely was crazy around here. It kind of calmed done for a little while until last year. It kind of reminded me of how it used to be last year when we went back to the Dome.”
Walk through the halls in the boys gym at Carencro and the reminders are everywhere.
“I spoke to the Carencro team before the finals in ’96,” Cook said. “I told them that if they lose that game, they’ll talk about the trip to the Dome for a little while, but if they win, it’ll last for a lifetime.”
For the 1992 Carencro Golden Bears, it’s 20 years and counting.