On this day of thanks, I felt the need to take the time and reflect on what has turned out to be a truly eventful first three months of nolacatholicleague.com.
Despite the concerns of our web managers in Baton Rouge that we were not ready to launch by the opening of the football season, I pushed for a September 6th launch date. I felt strongly that we needed to be live for the opening night of the high school football season. In order to do that, they needed to get me a development page to load the information for both the home page and the six team pages. They gave me the development site the night before we went live. In comparison, we had the development site for Riverparishfootball.com over a month before we went live. With three of us loading information for that site, we still didn’t feel we were fully comfortable launching when we did. It was truly amazing that we were ready to go with NCL.com when we did, but on September 6, a high school website devoted entirely to the Catholic League was launched.
And so it began. While we developed the site live and made mistakes for all to see, an amazing season in the reunited Catholic League was underway. A defending state champion, the No.1 rated recruit in the country, and the traditional rivalries to be renewed were the storylines that unfolded as the season began.
To cover these stories, we put together a “Murderer’s Row” of Catholic League reporters. With Ron Brocato leading the way with advice, stories, and tremendous still photography we had our No.1 overall draft pick to build the site around.
Bill Bumgarner was next. Combining both experience and talent, Bill’s stories are always a pleasure to read and having him on board with this project is a huge asset and is truly an honor.
We added the experience of Will Peneguy, the versatility of Vashon Jones, and the willingness of intern Conner Melofchik and we were on our way.
Doing play-by-play for Cox 4’s New Orleans Game-of-the-Week for a second consecutive year started off as a blessing, but as this site developed, it quickly became a burden.
First the positives; I love doing play-by-play. It was the driving force that lead me into this profession. This season I had a chance to call the St. Aug/Karr game which meant Leonard Fournette, which meant must-see-TV. But as we all saw, the game was full of some of the top high school talent in the nation.
In Week 3 I was able to call the Jesuit/Central game where I saw first-hand the resiliency of a team, who was coming off both a heartbreaking loss on the field, but also was shaken by the dismissal of their offensive coordinator that week. Traling a talented and undefeated Central team at the half, Jesuit responded with one of the best opening-half drives of the season and went on to pick up an emotional 17-14 road win.
In Week 8, I had a chance to call the Rummel/Jesuit game and was witness to one of the three last-second field goals that defeated the Blue Jays this season. It was a night that I began to understand what people meant when they would leave a game shaking their heads and uttering the phrase, “That’s the Catholic League.” From seeing the determination from Rummel sophomore quarterback Chase Fourcade breaking tackles on his 11-yard run on a fourth down and ten, to an overtime field goal by Justin Mourain, I was a believer.
But the demands of doing games that sometimes were a two-hour drive away from New Orleans, to the homework that is required to deliver and informative broadcast were too great when I was developing this site.
Playing games on Thursdays and Saturdays has allowed me to cover many games this season and on this Thanksgiving Holiday with half of the Catholic League playing in the Division I version of the state’s Final Four, here’s a few observations with the number of games I covered each team:
Brother Martin (3) Saw the Crusaders roll over Patterson in Week 1. Was a fan of Jared West right away. Later saw them hang with East Ascension and got my first real good look at LSU commitment William Clapp. Felt bad that he was not able to play in their playoff game after suffering a concussion in practice, a day after we had him on the set for our TV show version of Nolacatholicleague.com.
Holy Cross (3) Have been a fan of this team since getting to know Barry Wilson and his team leading up to the 4A state semifinals last year. Joel Dullary always seems to be in the right place. I already felt James Tabary was a warrior, then I found out that he was throwing up and had diarrhea the day of the Tigers 27-13 Div. I quarterfinal road win at Catholic. After seeing him cause havoc to West St. John in Week 4, glad to see Kevin Durr back on the field hopefully recovered from an earlier injury.
Jesuit (6) From the resiliency I witnessed in the come-from-behind victory at Central, hard not to pull for this team. A classy team from top to bottom, I like the way this team conducts itself at all times. Chris Mills is a flat-out playmaker. Gritty, determined, talented Mills is flat out an all-around fun player to watch. Tight end Foster Moreau seemed to score every time I saw Jesuit and quarterback Trey LaForge matured before our eyes this season.
Coach Wayde Keiser would describe his team by saying: “We don’t have any 4-stars, just a bunch of guys who work like 4-stars.” When I saw guys like Mark Beebe, Jimmy Mickler, and Colby Simoneaux on defense, I knew what he meant.
Rummel (5) I’ve known guys associated with this program longer than anyone in the Catholic League. In 1991 I was a reporter for “The Phil Greco Show” when he was the head coach at Nicholls State. I have known coach Jay Roth since returning to New Orleans in 2007. Coach Roth was one of the first people I told about this site. I was the sideline reporter for CST’s live coverage of his 5A state appearance in 2009, and also covered his 5A state championship victory last season.
I admire the way Roth handles his team. Stripping the “R’s” off their helmets after the Week 5 loss at Dutchtown, then putting them back on one side of their helmets after a resounding 28-0 shutout victory over Holy Cross was classic.
Loved the way Ivan Phipps and Israel Tucker played in the absence of Keith Fulton, then embraced Fulton’s return from a broken foot in last week’s 17-14 road win over Scotlandville.
Also, a big fan of Raiders defensive coordinator Eddie Jaquilliard and how he has motivated players like Henre’ Tolliver to play inspired defense late in the season.
St. Augustine (6) in 25 years of covering high school football this may be the best team I’ve seen. And that’s in some of the most fertile high school areas in the country. From eastern Pennsylvania where I covered Raghib “Rocket” Ismail, western Ohio where I covered Charles Woodson, Indianapolis where I covered Rex Grossman, to Mobile where I saw Julio Jones develop from his sophomore year.
While every one of those players just listed played like men-against-boys, Leonard Fournette may be the best high school player in that bunch. Ismail was the quickest and shiftiest. Woodson had the best all-around instincts playing both running back and defensive back. Grossman had a rifle arm with tremendous accuracy and a flare for the dramatic. Jones had the best natural athletic ability and was almost impossible to cover. Fournette combines all of those qualities. His combination of size and speed is jaw dropping. And as talented of a player as he is, it’s his off-the-field demeanor that is equally as impressive. Following the Purple Knights most recent win, I interviewed Leonard side-by-side with his younger brother Lanard, who had a highlight-reel 88-yard run of his own in the 54-38 win over Jesuit. I asked Lanard what his brother had taught him most this season. Without hesitation Lanard said he had learned how to be humble from his big brother. I thought that spoke volumes.
As for the supporting cast at St. Aug? Toi Jackson may want to pursue a career in baseball, but he’s the best quarterback in the Catholic League. He has led a high-powered offense all season, and been a true team leader when St. Aug has needed him most. Please see the 3-play 71-yard drive that took 0:22 in the closing minute against Holy Cross for reference.
So St. Aug has the best running back in the nation, the best quarterback in the Catholic League, and guess what? They also have the best wide receiver in the Catholic League. Stanley Morgan has made both the circus grabs, the routine catch, and flat out beat and out-leaped defenders all season. Throw in Marlon Watts and tight end Charlie Jones, and the Purple Knights offer up a tremendous arsenal of receivers. And we haven’t even started talking about the defense yet.
A lockdown cover-corner in Jermain Roberts leads the way for a unit that has playmakers at all three layers.
Coach Cyril Crutchfield has been a friend since Hurricane Gustav tore into his South Plaquemines school just three years after Hurricane Katrina wiped out his former school at Port Sulphur. In his second year at St. Aug, Crutchfield is primed for his school’s first state title since 1979. It would be the third school that Crutchfield has led to football’s promise land.
Shaw (4) This was a fun team to watch. From witnessing Scott Bairnsfather’s 100th career win, to the grace and poise the Eagles handed over the megaphone in the traditional rivalry game with Rummel, it was an eventful year for the Eagles.
Senior fullback/tight end Brennan Falcon was a touchdown machine every time the NCL.com camera’s were around.
So on this Thanksgiving Day holiday, I will stop writing and go join my family in some turkey, watching football, and the annual Thanksgiving Day Richey family whiffle ball game. Before I do, these last thoughts:
A special thanks to the many still photographers that have offered their pictures for our website. From Bill Arthurs at Rummel, Sue Ellen Lyons at Holy Cross, and Niki Hebert at Shaw. These pictures were invaluable to our website.
Also to Shaw coach Warren Gabriel who supplied us stats after every game which helped us in our coverage of the Eagles.
From the first of what will surely be many more to come, Happy Thanksgiving from Nolacatholicleague.com.