They may not have known it at the time and perhaps it would have happened anyway, but the Carencro Bears’ 1992 state championship run ironically seemed to begin the Golden years of high school football in the Acadiana area.
In the 10 years prior to 1992, three Acadiana area teams played in six state final games.
Eunice beat Jennings in 1982. St. Martinville won titles in 1981 and 1984 and lost in 1985. Crowley won in 1989 and lost in the finals in 1991.
Since the Bears won state in 1992, a total of 12 area teams have played in 26 state championship games. Only once since Carencro’s state title season has there been a December when there wasn’t at least one area teams playing for a state championship. That year was 1994 and Cecilia lost 21-20 in the semifinals that season.
“I definitely think they opened up some eyes that it was a possibility,” Acadiana coach Ted Davidson said. “Before Carencro won state, I think the thought was for a lot of good programs that if you made it to the quarterfinals, that was good. After Carencro did it, I think some programs kind of thought, ‘OK, well let’s see if we can try to do it.’ I think it did open some eyes in our area.”
Former Carencro coach Mac Barousse stopped short of claiming that his coaching staff was a trend-setter, saying “we may have started a few trends, but believe me, we stole plenty of trends from other coaches. We studied guys like Carroll Delahoussaye at St. Martinville.”
The first thing the Bears did was illustrate that it could be done.
Barousse tells the story that legendary Acadiana High coach Bill Dotson joked with him at the time that he had been campaigning for years that the facilities in Lafayette Parish needed to be improved and that the schools here couldn’t win a state title with such poor facilities and that the Bears messed up that cause by winning it all.
“Yeah, Bill joked that we messed it up for everyone,” Barousse said. “But he also said that we showed everyone that it could be done.”
The biggest trend established by Carencro’s state title team, though, was in the emphasis on special teams. Prior to Wade Richey and special teams coach Tony Courville, very few teams devoted much time or effort to the kicking game.
Since that era, college football has been flooded with kickers and punters from the Acadiana area.
“We definitely felt like we could have a big advantage over most teams we played in the area of special teams,” Barousse said.
Unlike nearly every staff in the state, much less the area, Courville studied the kicking game and made it a strength through extra effort.
“Most program gave it lip service, but there was never really any attention to detail,” Courville said. “When I was a G.A. at USL under coach (Nelson) Stokley, that’s when I began taking it seriously. I realized that the kicking game can be a game-changer, a difference-maker.”
Of course, it didn’t hurt that Courville was handed an extra talented foot in Richey, who later kicked at LSU and for seven years in the NFL for the 49ers, Chargers and Ravens.
Richey gave the credit to Courville.
“He’s serious about it,” Richey said. “Nobody (in high school) coaches special teams like him. Even when I got to the NFL, he would contact me about getting information from my special teams coach about what was coming up in the kicking game and the things we were doing in the NFL to try to get better.”
While Richey didn’t mind giving Courville praise, he stopped short of his foot being a legendary trend-setter.
“I really think it had a lot to do with soccer becoming popular at that time,” Richey said. “I remember my uncles calling me a sissy when I was young because I played soccer. I just think by around that time, not just here but all over the country, kids who had grown up playing soccer were at that age.
“I think soccer was a big factor in that.”