A look back at St. Martinville Senior High football through the years.
It’s actually a story that I’ve told very few people over the years.
It wasn’t exactly a night to remember. And at the time, I had no idea exactly what I missed.
It was 1984.
It was my second football season as a part-timer for the Daily Advertiser. I was a freshman at UL.
My knowledge of high school football in the area was still very much in its infancy. I knew a fair amount about Acadiana High, Lafayette High, New Iberia and the other Class 4A schools, but hadn’t yet experienced the traditions of any schools outside the parish.
Programs like the one Carroll Delahoussaye was leading in St. Martinville, for example.
It was early December and sports editor Bruce Brown went out on a limb and sent me to my first big road assignment – to cover a Class 3A state semifinals game between Wossman and Delahoussaye’s Tigers.
Having never been to St. Martinville in my life, I took the wrong turn near what it now the Albertson’s Parkway. After driving seemingly nowhere for way too long, I decided to stop and ask directions to see if I was headed in the right direction. I wasn’t.
Now rattled and worried that I was going to be late, I headed on the proper path only for my car to break down on a dark, winding road without a streetlight in sight.
Some nice people brought me to a big bingo hall, where I spent about an hour worried to death about blowing the assignment while waiting for transportation back to Lafayette.
Needless to say, I never made it to St. Martinville’s Death Valley that night. The Tigers beat Wossman and went on to edge Washington-Marion 31-20 in the Superdome the following week to win the program’s second state championship.
Take a look back at more area football programs:
- Lafayette High
- Northside High
- Carencro High
- Comeaux High
- St. Thomas More
- Acadiana High
- Teurlings Catholic
My next try at St. Martinville came the following season. The Tigers had moved up to Class 4A and I covered the Acadiana at St. Martinville contest in week four that year. Still scared to death from my unsuccessful trip the year before, I formally got introduced to St. Martinville football and so did many of the Wreckin’ Rams when the Tigers delivered a 23-0 shellacking of Acadiana.
The Tigers went 13-2 again that year, before falling to John Ehret in the state finals.
Next came the memorable 1987 home regional playoff showdown with John Curtis. Man that was a great atmosphere. Cornelius Gedward was the Tigers’ workhorse back and to that point in my career, I don’t know if I ever saw a back run harder or a crowd pull for him with any more passion than the SMSH fans did that night.
It was sitting in the press box during the tense moments of that game that I first realized what I had missed three years earlier.
As good as Gedward was, though, his sidekick in the backfield that year became the No. 1 rushing threat in 1988. His name was James Jacquet. I’m not saying he’s the best running back I ever covered. If you count Carencro’s Kevin Faulk as a running back, he definitely wasn’t.
But in terms of a running style and just enjoying watching a high school back battle for yards with a unique combination of power and grace, I’m not sure I’d pick any other running back over Jacquet.
The 1990s followed Jacquet’s exit from the scene and while there weren’t any more state titles, the winning didn’t stop.
Neither did the great backs over the years, from Deontae Bonhomme to Martel Narcisse. Just say that name like a broadcaster would ‘Mar-TEL NARcisse’ – just a great football name. He would soon be joined by another great name in Early Doucet.
In fact, from 1977 through the 2006 season, St. Martinville enjoyed 25 winning seasons, only four losing years and one .500 campaign. That includes those two state crowns, eight semifinal games and 14 quarterfinal contests.
Through the years, I’ve gotten to know and appreciate Delahoussaye and what his program meant to that town for so long. I still relish hearing him relay his memories of that great championship era. I love how cool it was for longtime assistant coach Andy Lasseigne to play there, then coach there for decades and then have his son play there as well.
Folks, it’s still difficult for me to comprehend St. Martinville’s program struggling to win games. I’ve seen many programs go through highs and lows over the last three decades, but having witnessed the good years allows that respect for the tradition to carry on.
The cool thing about St. Martin Parish is that you can’t hardly talk about one without the other two at some point. The late 1980s rekindled the Breaux Bridge rivalry. The 24-22 SMSH win in 1987 remains legendary. I’ve heard both sides of the great “field goal good or not good” controversy and I’ve heard the funny versions. All of them are jewels – just classic St. Martin Parish football.
In the 1990s, Cecilia really joined the fun in full force. I’m sure some of the fans won’t agree, but to me, Acadiana area high school football is better when all three are good.
These days in St. Martinville, it’s the challenge of holding on to the glory days of the past and hoping that there are somehow more left to come.
Sports editor Kevin Foote has been covering high school football in the Acadiana area for the past 31 years. This is the eighth in a series of stories as we count down the days to the start of the 2014 high school football season that will review his memories of covering the area’s programs through the years.