Remembering Cecilia's 1995 state title team

Cecilia coach James Waguespack leads his Bulldogs onto the field at the Superdome prior to the 1995 state championship game.

Cecilia coach James Waguespack leads his Bulldogs onto the field at the Superdome prior to the 1995 state championship game.

It’s one of the great myths in sports, especially at the high school level.

Well OK, perhaps it is true that most teams work. Some teams, though, work hard. Others work really, really hard.

Then there’s a special few that are all in.

Being a member of that last group requires that perfect combination of total selflessness, extraordinary work ethic, unyielding leadership and the ability to endure unspeakable pain and adversity to reach the common goal that none of them can possibly fathom not attaining.

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That was the 1995 Cecilia Bulldogs state championship football team.

In this era of public vs. private school split postseasons, 11-man playoff brackets and 0-10 teams qualifying for the state playoffs, perhaps it would do us all some good to reflect upon this inspiring team.

It was a team that both learned and taught lessons, many of which are just being realized 20 years later.

When the 2015 version of the Cecilia Bulldogs — a talented 10-1 squad in its own right — hits the field to host the Karr Cougars in Friday’s Class 4A state regional playoff game, any longtime Cecilia High fan should be appreciate the thrilling irony of that matchup.

In December of 1995, their beloved Bulldogs beat Karr 12-9 on a late Andy Chance field goal to win the Class 3A state championship.

It ended an incredible four-year run for the program that was filled with both great triumph and agonizing defeat.

On that night two decades ago on the Superdome floor, it was worth every heartbreak that preceded it.

Something more lasting than any of them understood at the time had just taken place.

After three seasons of coming oh-so-close to achieving the big prize, we can only imagine how hungry the Bulldogs must have been entering the 1995 season.

And how focused.

And how much they were willing to endure to feed their need to accomplish the feat of a lifetime.

“It was time,” said James Waguespack, who was Cecilia’s head coach during that prosperous era.

“After we lost to Jennings in ’92, you wondered, ‘Is that it?’ Then after we lost to Karr in overtime in ’93, it really wondered, ‘Are we ever going to be able to get back there again?’ Then we lost to Amite 21-20 in the semifinals the next year,” offensive line coach Mickey Autrey said.

“By 1995, it was put up or shut up time.”

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“Going into August, we had the feeling that we were going to be state champions,” quarterback Rusty Berard said. “We were ranked No. 5 and felt like we had been disrespected.”

By proving all doubters wrong, the Bulldogs achieved the perfect 15-0 season.

“It’s still a fantastic feeling,” Berard said. “It’s not just with the players. You run into people in the community and they still talk about it. It gets even more special the older you get.

“When you think about what we accomplished, I see all the great Breaux Bridge and Cecilia teams since then that never went undefeated. You never realize how hard of a task that is.”

The Reunion

Many of the coaches and players, though, recently discovered that the lessons and fulfillment from achieving such a goal are still rolling in.

The team held a reunion during Breaux Bridge week earlier this season. They were honored at the game and then went to Pat’s in Henderson for a social gathering to relive the glory days.

Andy Chance (11), who kicked the game-winning field goal, walks off the field with the 3A state championship trophy back in 1995.

Andy Chance (11), who kicked the game-winning field goal, walks off the field with the 3A state championship trophy back in 1995.

During the speeches and casual conversation, some perspectives were changed and many memories magnified.

“When you’re going through it, you don’t think about those things,” Waguespack said. “You don’t really think about being a role model and somebody looking up to you. I was surprised at the reunion. They all seemed to recognize what we (coaches) were trying to do. We were trying to make them better than they were.”

Remember this was “the year-after” team.

Legendary two-way performer Jamaican Dartez had led the Bulldogs to a pair of state finals and the semifinals through 1992-94. Many outsiders figured Cecilia’s window of opportunity was gone with Dartez’s departure to Tulane.

So the coaches pushed harder to get even more out of this superstar-less group than the star-studded teams that preceded them.

“Thinking back,” standout linebacker and offensive guard Cory Green said, “I give all the credit to the coaches. They did things that would probably put them in jail today. It’s just not like that anymore. But they got us on point.

“There were great life lessons. They were really tough on us. Everybody was expected to do their job. That’s the way it was.”

In Green’s case, he never heard the praise he secretly desired from defensive coordinator Lowell “Pee Wee” Guidry until after the state title was won.

“Every day I made it rough on him,” Guidry admits all these years long. “Cory Green was as tough as they come.”

Green remained in the game in the quarterfinal win at St. James despite “busting up his nose.” At the reunion, Waguespack said he told Green he wanted to take him out, but Guidry wouldn’t have it.

“It didn’t matter, because I wasn’t coming out anyway,” Green said.

All these years later, the coaches were amazed to hear the feedback.

“I didn’t realize they felt that way,” Waguespack said. “It was very emotional at the reunion. I got choked up.

“I guess I didn’t realize at the time that it was such a big part of their lives. I was glad we could do it for them.”


At the time, though, the coaches wondered if it would get to be too much.

“We didn’t know if we were going to break them,” Waguespack said.

“It was a really unique experience (at reunion),” four-year left tackle Parker Alleman said. “Hearing the coaches talk to us about why they did what they did and asking us questions about what we were thinking at the time. It was eye-opening.”

Cecilia High quarterback Rusty Berard (2) talks strategy with head coach James Waguespack on the sidelines during the 1995 3A state title game.

Cecilia High quarterback Rusty Berard (2) talks strategy with head coach James Waguespack on the sidelines during the 1995 3A state title game.

As it turned out, the Bulldogs never broke.

“They knew we were doing it to make them better,” Guidry said. “They knew we didn’t play favorites.

“When we crossed the line at practice, everything else was put to the side. It was all business.”


Well, sort of.

As intense and determined as this group was, it’s not like there weren’t any light moments. How could there not be with the wacky bunch of characters on that coaching staff?

In addition to Waguespack, Guidry and Autrey, there was Steve Huter, Jody Hebert and Dervynn Johnson.

“It was almost as tough as keeping the kids together,” Waguespack laughed. “We definitely had some characters. Coach (Jody) Hebert was a character in his own way. But coaching with Huter was something.”

Few would have enjoyed the 20-year reunion more than Huter, who unfortunately passed away prior to last season.

“He (Huter) would always say, ‘If y’all are right about that, I’m going to jump off the church naked,’ ” Guidry laughed. “Any time practice started to get boring, one of the coaches would bring up the Kennedys. Man, he hated the Kennedys.”

“Coach Guidry would come to me or one of the other coaches, and say, ‘Coach, go mention the Kennedys to coach Huter,’ ” Autrey remembered. “He would get so fired up. But he loved those kids.”

Around all practical joking, though, it was all football.

“In those days, our lives revolved around football,” Alleman said. “We lived and breathed football. It was really amazing what they put us through. But thinking back, their methods prepared us for life. Now you can see why they did the things they did.

“We worked so hard for that state championship. I couldn’t imagine life without it.”

These days, Guidry doesn’t seem to mind admitting that many of his star defenders challenged Alleman in drills during and after practice, but “we never whipped him. He was the best offensive lineman I ever saw at Cecilia.”


In so many cases, time distorts reality. The fish stories get bigger.

For these 1995 Bulldogs, however, time seems to be revealing it.

For instance, Alleman said he recently pulled out his state title ring for the first time in 20 years to show it to his 6-year-old child. As he discussed it, he realized that he had somehow suppressed many of the aspects of the state title run that made it such a wonderful achievement.

“I explained what it was and what it meant,” he said. “It felt great then, but now I think I have a better appreciation for the great thing we accomplished.

“I went on to UL on a track-and-field scholarship and had some great times in college. But there’s nothing like that high school state championship.”

Especially in a small town where it takes a true blue-collar approach to achieve.

“The thing that I liked the most about it is that it brought the little town together,” Guidry said.

“Coach Huter was the first to make the observation that we had played in 59 out of 60 weeks,” Autrey said. “I’m still amazed by that. I know that happens to some of the big-city schools, but you don’t see that very often with little country schools like ours.”

Nowadays, we’re discussing splitting up the rural and public schools come playoff time.

Sure the John Curtises of the world over the years have spit out state titles like the Beatles did hit records in the 1960s, but I just can’t believe any of those feel as good as Cecilia’s 1995 title still does to all who experienced it.


The two previous losses in the state finals made it great. The hard work that it required to achieve made it admirable.

The playoff road those Bulldogs conquered made it historically good.

After solid opening-round wins over Kaplan and E.D. White, the run almost came to a screeching halt at St. James in the quarterfinal round.

Trailing late without the ball, it was a good thing Green didn’t settle for the sidelines. The future Tulane two-way performer forced a fumble and then blocked for the game-winning touchdown run to pull out a 13-12 road win.

Cecilia High’s Beau Guidry (12) and Jermaine Davis (22) take turns kissing the Class 3A state championship trophy for the Bulldogs back in 1995.

Cecilia High’s Beau Guidry (12) and Jermaine Davis (22) take turns kissing the Class 3A state championship trophy for the Bulldogs back in 1995.

That earned the right to visit powerhouse Evangel and this unstoppable passing offense in the semifinal round. Evangel had just won two state championships and would win the next four. But the Eagles couldn’t beat the 1995 Cecilia Bulldogs in Shreveport.

“I told Wag, ‘We’re not going to sit back,’ ” Guidry said. “We’re going to rush them and put pressure on them. If we played them 10 times, they might have beaten us seven times, but we were more prepared for them that night than they were for us. We attacked them and I don’t think they were used to that.”

So on to the state finals for the third time in four seasons.

Somehow this trip felt different. This group was too focused on the trophy to gaze at any tall ceilings.

In the first half, star running back Corey Jackson broke his arm. That’s right, the man who had replaced the great Jamaican Dartez — on offense anyway — was lost for the game. Or so we thought.

When Waguespack informed Jackson and his mother that he was done for the game, it was the coach who received the surprising news. The questioned physical therapist told the group that he couldn’t hurt it any worse by playing.

Mom and son wanted him to keep playing, so Guidry said he soaked it in an ice bucket to dull the pain and Jackson played as much as he could the rest of the way.

In the first quarter, Berard got blasted on the sidelines.

“I literally saw stars like on the cartoons,” Berard said. “Believe it or not, it kind of woke me up at the time. I started completing passes after that.

“They weren’t going to take me out of that game.”

Current concussion protocol today would likely have sidelined the starting quarterback for the game.

“Those kids played,” Guidry said. “They wanted to win. It was a different time, a different era and the kids were different.”

Fortunately for the Bulldogs, the defense was plenty capable of carrying the load on their way to the 12-9 win.


It was a unit led by its linebackers — Green, Jerome Wiltz and D’Juanas Richard.

“Jerome Wiltz was a big part of that team,” Guidry said. “He played some running back for us, but he was really good at linebacker.

“Richard was a crazy football player. He would take on those big tackles that outweighed him by a lot and he had a knack of getting under them. That was the best combination of linebackers I ever had.”

Chance’s field goal brought home that trophy the community so desperately craved and that this team so courageously earned.

No, in the real world, they weren’t warriors. That label is rightfully reserved for soldiers in war.

In football terms, though, this group was as close as it comes.

“I don’t believe we could have played a game the week after that,” Waguespack said. “They had given everything they had.”

Green would later play on a 13-0 Tulane team with three members of that Karr squad, who constantly told Green how amazed they were with Cecilia’s relentless effort.


While it’s doubtful any Cecilia team will ever quite be able to top the 1995 season and all it currently represents, that special group is sure pulling for the 2015 version to bring home another state title, beginning with Friday’s showdown against Karr.

“Those kids on the 1995 team are really pulling hard for this year’s football team,” Waguespack said. “They’re really hoping that it works out for them. We really enjoyed watching them play that night.”

In fact, this year’s coaching staff includes two members of the 1995 championship team — offensive tackle Bart Vitte and defensive back Jason Faulk.

And no one has followed the team any closer than 1995 fullback Jermaine Davis, who has been at every game.

“I really think they’ve got a good shot,” Davis said. “They’ve definitely got the offense, they’ve got a good defense and a good kicking game. And I think they’ve got the heart. I think they’re going to be really tough to beat.”

What a fitting tribute another state title would be to that 1995 team, which — with every new LHSAA proposal — accomplished so much more than many of us or it ever realized.

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