The power of large school Louisiana high school football had clearly moved away from the city, but for the Catholic League, the balance of power seemed to shift each year.
Between 1995 and 2004, five schools won or shared at least one district title. The only school to fall short of a championship was De La Salle, which languished through 10 losing seasons in 11 years as a co-ed school and voluntarily dropped down in class following the 2002-03 school year.
Under head coach Tony Biagas, who became the St. Augustine’s most victorious mentor, the Purple Knights won the district championship then rolled over Covington, Shaw and Fortier before falling one point short of playing for their first state championship since 1979 when they lost to Neville, 7-6.
In 1996, Brother Martin head coach Bob Conlin resigned for health reasons after 27 years and 202 victories following the Crusaders’ loss to Abramson in the playoffs. Conlin, the league’s all-time leader in coaching victories through this day, died the following year.
Jesuit reached the Class 5A semifinals in 1996 and 1997, but was denied championship appearance by Carencro, in 1996 and West Monroe in 1997.
Shaw fielded an outstanding team under coach Hank Tierney. The Eagles scored 55, 37 and 49 points in their first three playoff victories before smashing Carencro, 62-44. But Shaw was eliminated again by West Monroe, 22-19, in the 1997 finals. Jesuit and Shaw’s appearances marked the first time since 1988 that two Catholic League teams reached the semifinals.
Jesuit again came close to the championship round, but was denied by Ruston, 6-3, in the 1998 semis. St. Augustine advanced to the 1999 quarterfinals where Catholic High defeated the Purple Knights, 14-7.
Under head coach Jay Roth, Rummel won the Catholic League championship in 1999, which would be the Raiders first in a streak of four consecutive Catholic crowns. Roth’s teams would go on to claim or share eight league titles over a 10-year span.
After opening the 2000 playoffs with a 28-0 shutout of Catholic High, Shaw eliminates locals East St. John, 17-7; Rummel, 28-3; and Ehret, 18-15 to reach another title game. But West Monroe had too much firepower and defeated the Eagles, 35-7.
Shaw would later forfeit eight victories and finish 0-10. The LHSAA declared all of Shaw’s victories in 1999, 200 and 2001 void for violating eligibility rules. Head coach Hank Tierney, with a record of 154-80, resigned his position.
Rummel became the kingpin of the district. Roth’s Raiders reached the semifinals in 2001 and 2002, but fell short to Evangel in both seasons.
Jesuit’s Chris Markey became the first local player to be named “Mr. Football” by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association in 2003. He earned the honor by rushing for more yards than any player in the history of New Orleans prep football totaling 2,837 rushing yards and 46 touchdowns as a senior. Markey also accounted for 3,504 all-purpose yards on 382 touches.
In 2004, all four Catholic League playoff entries – Brother Martin, Jesuit, Rummel and Shaw – were eliminated in the second round of the state playoffs. The hopes of the players and Catholic League fans for a rally in 2005 were dashed when Hurricane Katrina smashed into the city. Subsequent flooding claimed the campuses of league’s schools.
It has taken years to recover.
TEAM OF THE DECADE (1995-2004)
Wide receiver – Dicky Lyons, Holy Cross
Tight end – Chris Brown, Jesuit
Offensive line – Scott Holt, Holy Cross; Corey Hilliard, Jesuit; Torie Taulli, Shaw; Bob Wynne, Jesuit; Lance Ancar, St. Augustine.
Quarterback – Shyrone Carey, Shaw.
Running backs – Chris Markey, Jesuit; Michael Burks, Rummel; Darron Parquet, Rummel.
Placekicker – Sean Comiskey, Rummel.
Kick returns – Gino Giambelluca, Holy Cross.
Def. line – Bennie Mills, Rummel; Perry Davis, St. Augustine; Marquise Hill, De La Salle; Nick Frank, Holy Cross.
Linebackers – Wayne Cordova, St. Augustine; Ridge Bourgeois, Jesuit; Cameron Vaughn, Shaw.
Def. backs – Tommy Connors, Shaw; Chris Horton, De La Salle; Craig Steltz, Rummel; Keithshone Dantzler, Brother Martin.
Punter – Danny Hrapmann, Holy Cross.