A look back at Cecilia High School football through the years.
I knew the names, but I hadn’t seen them play.
Guys like Ramsey Dardar and Craig Dartez, stars from the era just before I began working at the Daily Advertiser.
I’ve heard some of the stories, but missed many of the key figures at Cecilia High during those years.
As I think back on my memories of the Cecilia Bulldogs football over the years, the thing that strikes me the most is the unique characters surrounding the program.
More specifically, the first thoughts that come to mind are the colorful head coaches. For many programs, it’s a great running back – and there were some – or an elite quarterback – the Bulldogs sported a few of those as well – or even the great games – got those too.
But at Cecilia, though, it’s the coaches. Interviewing Johnny Devillier and James Waguespack was just down right hilarious at times.
There are characters and then there’s Johnny Devillier and James Waguespack.
If you’ve never interviewed them or held a conversation with them, there’s almost no way to explain it. Both were just a wonderful combination of stubborn, combative and just plain funny.
I can only imagine the things those two coaches must have said to sideline officials over the years. If only there was a local high school version of NFL Films getting sideline audio of Cecilia High football in the 1980s and 1990. That would be priceless.
Then there was the classic alter ego defensive guru Pee Wee Guidry under both of them.
What a crew.
I actually didn’t get to know Devillier very well at all until he was later coaching basketball at Cecilia. In that capacity, I was able to hear some of his courtside banter with the game officials and it was quite comical. Just great stuff.
Waguespack, on the other hand, very much coached in my prime years of covering prep football. We had many a conversation on the phone at night. He was fascinating in a lot of ways.
Coach Wag was the classic example that first impressions can be wrong. I remember his assistant coaches telling me how great of a player he was and how he won a state title at St. James before ever getting to Cecilia.
Then I started watching his Bulldog teams play. Boy, were they good.
I don’t remember the actual start of very many of my stories I’ve written over the years, but I remember one for sure. It was the season opener in 1991 at Cecilia and St. Martin Parish rival St. Martinville was in town.
The Bulldogs introduced the rival Tigers and the rest of Acadiana that night to a freshman running back.
The start of my account of the game was simply, “Acadiana area, meet Jamaican Dartez.”
It was no secret. All of us in the stadium that night knew we were all in for four seasons of a special football player.
Unlike so many great players, Dartez didn’t have blazing speed. It would actually be more difficult to explain what made him so great to someone who never saw him play than most great backs I’ve covered.
Whatever ‘it’ is, Dartez just had it, not to mention a great name to boot.
Not only was he a tremendous back with great cutback ability and nifty hands, Dartez was also an elite defensive back.
In fact, when we did an All-Acadiana decade team from the 1986-1996 era, the Offensive MVP was Carencro’s Kevin Faulk and the Defensive MVP was Jamaican Dartez. They were just the two best overall players of that era.
The only thing Dartez didn’t get was that state title. The Bulldogs lost 14-7 to Jennings in the program’s first trip in 1992 and then 13-10 in overtime to Karr in 1993. Dartez’s final game was a 21-20 heartbreaking loss in the state semifinals to Amite in 1994, before heading off to Tulane.
It’s an example I use constantly to this day. I’m sure many thought that Cecilia’s window of opportunity had closed when Dartez left.
But in the crazy irony of sports, the Bulldogs were able to finally knock down the door with a 12-9 win over Karr behind the running of Corey Jackson and the foot of Andy Chance.
We’ve had quite a few state championship runs to cover over the last 20 years, but none compare to the state playoff run Cecilia somehow put together in 1995. In a feat few thought possible, the Bulldogs went to Evangel Christian in the state quarterfinals that year and upset the Eagles 31-27.
None of us who didn’t make the game and listened to the late great Big Dave Thibodeaux and Mike “The Chinese Bandit” Bernard call that game will ever forget it. Waguespack and his staff put together a gameplan for the ages, somehow able to get to Evangel’s quarterback through the relentless pursuit of linebackers like Corey Green, Jerome Wiltz and D’Juanas Richard.
I can’t help but laugh every time I’ve been told the story of nervous assistant coach Steve Huter being told by Evangel school officials that smoking wasn’t allowed on the campus. (It breaks my heart that our old friend Huter wasn’t able to read this trip-down-memory-lane series due to his untimely death this past school year. Few coaches that I’ve ever met in this business enjoyed relaying the old stories as much as him.)
Perhaps even more amazing is that Waguespack and his staff were able to keep the Bulldogs grounded enough to then go on the road again and beat another juggernaut in St. James, which had lost in the state finals the year before, in the semifinals to advance to the Dome to meet Karr.
Just an incredible run. Truly one for the ages.
These days, the head coach isn’t as colorful as Devillier or Waguespack, but my respect for Terry Martin isn’t any less. Martin ended a turnstile of head coaches and took the Bulldogs back to the state semifinals. Under Martin, the Dog Pound was able to enjoy another great two-way player in Marcus Wiltz, who helped return postseason success to Cecilia.
These days, the Bulldogs are coming off a few rare lean years, but the hopes are flying high for a playoff return.There’s another electrifying back in Raymond Calais, another huge line and a quarterback ready to throw it.