High school football seniors had the experience of practicing in a college-like atmosphere this week, but they got only one quarter of playing time in the East-West All-Star Game on Saturday in Independence Stadium.
The game’s start was delayed twice because of lightning strikes in the area, and the combination of further lightning strikes, whipping rain and a series of tornado watches led to the game’s cancellation after a scoreless first quarter.
“It’s football, but these conditions were wet and cold, so it was extremely hard to play in,” said Byrd running back Louis Mills. “I did want to play (Saturday), but certain things you just can’t control.
“Playing with Byrd, (head coach Mike Suggs) always says things get faster. And it did get faster this week. It felt good to play one more week with (Chandler Nance and Nicholas Pratt) after a heartbreaking championship loss.”
After the one-hour delay, West head coach Lewis Cook had no doubt what he wanted to do if he his team won the toss — “We wanted to defer and play with the wind.”
The strategy almost worked.
The West recovered from a Donta Johnson (Thibodaux) fumble with quarterback Kennon Fontenot (Barbe) accounting for three first downs. Fontenot picked up two with his feet and one on a 10-yard pass to Demontreal Babineaux (Breaux Bridge).
The West had a first-and-10 at the East 14-yard line, but Johnson had another fumble that the East recovered in the end zone.
“I’m proud that we completed the only pass today,” Cook said. “We had some good drives.
“(The conditions) were unfortunate, but the game isn’t what the kids will remember. It’s the time spent with each other this week, and I’m glad they were able to have that experience and then give it a shot today.”
The East had another three-and-out, and West running back Peyton Guidry (South Lafourche) gained 17 yards on the next four carries.
A fumbled shotgun snap set the West back 18 yards, but West punter Gunnar Raborn (St. Thomas More) pinned the East at the 5-yard line with a 54-yard punt.
The West nearly recorded a safety on the next play with a 4-yard loss, but East quarterback Andre Fuller II (Neville) ran nine yards on the final play of the quarter.
Fuller led the East with 16 yards on three rushes.
Despite conditions that had the small group of dedicated parents and fans scrambling under the Independence Stadium bleachers, Evangel receiver Jared Cornelius said he enjoyed the rain.
“It was cold and it was wet … but Evangel had two of their best games in the mud, so it was fun,” Cornelius said. “I love football like that.
“It was so much fun this week. Even when the game was called, everybody gave each other hugs like we had been together for four years.”
For the East, McDonogh 35 linebacker Bryan Blunt forced Johnson’s first fumble. Punter Patrick Juneau (St. Charles Catholic) averaged 34 yards on two punts into the wind.
The all-star game is the first in Louisiana since 2002, when the Bayou Bowl between Texas and Louisiana began in 2003 in Baytown, Texas.
This year’s all-star game was sponsored by the Louisiana High School Coaches Association/Louisiana Football Coaches Association with coordination from the LHSAA.