The state’s oldest high school football rivalry, matching Jesuit against Holy Cross ,was set to kick off at Tad Gormley Stadium on Sept. 9 for the 91st time.
Or was it the 90th?
That age-old question will never be answered. It is documented that the two schools played a game in 1937 where most statistics were kept, yet the outcome is still conjecture.
But what’s certain are the events that have placed this rivalry at the top of prep folklore in a city whose sports fans hold their respective high schools in the same esteem as their favorite colleges and the New Orleans Saints.
➤ When these two met in 1940, 34,345 packed the 24,500-seat City Park (now Gormley) Stadium to witness the 16th meeting. Jesuit won, 25-7, and added the state championship behind its new single-wing offense. That is still the largest crowd to see a prep game in 74 years.
➤ In 1963, the first year the LHSAA allowed more than one school from a district to compete in the state playoffs, the two teams that made it to the title game were, yes, Holy Cross and Jesuit. The Tigers won that game and the crown, 14-6, then won six of the next seven meetings with the Blue Jays.
➤ In 1978, first-year coach Henry Rando, in the throes of a winless year, tried to inspire his young squad by breaking out green uniforms to emulate those worn by Holy Cross’ mother school, Notre Dame. The Tigers may have been inspired, but not enough to avoid a 36-0 rout by the powerful Blue Jays. The green jerseys were never seen again.
➤ One of the greatest games played between the two occurred in 2000 when the Tigers outlasted Jesuit, 48-45. Tigers’ Gino Giambelluca and Jays’ freshman Chris Markey traded touchdowns on kickoff returns, and scoring went back and forth as quickly as tennis volleys.
➤ In the fourth game of the 1969 season, Jesuit was ranked No. 1 in the state and Holy Cross No. 2. They battled until the last few minutes without either scoring a point until backup quarterback Steve Foley replaced injured starter Kurt Forshag. Jesuit fumbled the ball at its 42-yard line. Halfback Ray Prats led a march that drove the ball to the Jays’ 7-yard line, and with just 1:55 to play, David Falgoust kicked a 22-yard field goal to put the Tigers ahead, 3-0.
It marked the third time in four games that Falgoust’s toe would give Holy Cross a victory.
Jesuit had one more scoring opportunity when captain Bryan Winters recovered a Tiger fumble. Jesuit moved the ball to the Holy Cross 12. But Foley, running for a first down at the Tigers’ 3-yard line, fumbled the ball straight up into the hands of Glenn Meyers to end the drive. A crowd of 14,000 watched the game.
As a footnote, both lost subsequent games to De La Salle, which went on to win the Catholic League crown.
The game that wasn’t
But the most bizarre ending came in the 1937 game. Abe Mickal, at the time a medical school student following a Hall of Fame career as a quarterback for LSU, was the head official when the two met that year in the fourth game of the season. They were chief contenders for the Prep League title.
A City Park crowd of 9,000 braved the rain to witness the exciting battle. They saw a 65-yard punt by the Jays’ Connie Ryan set the Tigers deep in their own territory from where they eventually had to punt back to Jesuit. But Phil Bruno and Bill Stroble blocked the Tigers’ punt. Stroble recovered the ball at the Holy Cross 12, and three plays later Warren Hauth crossed the goal line to put the Jays ahead 6-0. The point after failed.
The two played on near-even terms until late in the final period, when a poor punt by Jesuit’s O.J. Key gave the Tigers the ball at the Jays’ 27. A pass moved the ball to the 1-yard line, from where Vince Crespino scored for the Tigers. A missed PAT put the two in a 6-6 tie. And that’s how the game ended.
The LHSAA had installed its new tiebreaker rule in which first downs and penetrations decided which team would be declared the winner.
The officiating crew agreed that each school had five first downs. Mickal then awarded the win to Jesuit on penetrations, 4-1.
But the issue was far from settled. Holy Cross head coach Chuck Jaskwhich claimed his team had achieve six first downs and that Mickal miscounted.
Both schools submitted evidence to LHSAA President J.M. Boyette, among which was a telegram from Mickal that stated the officials did not keep first downs and penetrations in writing, but a consensus opinion by the officials awarded the game to Jesuit. Holy Cross contended that because there was no written proof of a Jesuit victory, Mickal’s ruling was arbitrary and wrong.
Boyette agreed. He ruled the game a “no contest” and struck the result from the records. The outcome did not count for or against either school. As far as the LHSAA was concerned, the game was never played.
Jesuit opened the 2011 season on Sept. 1 with an impressive 28-13 victory over Hahnville. Holy Cross was not as fortunate. The Tigers fell to Slidell, 41-34, in double overtime when they failed to score on their second possession at the Slidell 10.
Both are among the favorites to win their respective districts, and both started the season ranked in their respective class Top 10 preseason polls.
Holy Cross head coach Barry Wilson, a center-linebacker on that 1963 state championship team, traditionally will not allow his team to carry the “HC” logo on their helmets unless they beat Jesuit, a feat they haven’t achieved since 2007.
Jesuit leads the series 51-37-2. Both schools agreed to count the 1937 outcome as a tie in their record books.
St. Paul’s the real deal
Edna Karr, which lost the 2010 Class 4A championship game to Franklinton in overtime and which returns many starters from that game, was ranked as the No. 1 team in 4A at the start of the season.
St. Paul’s sent the Cougars home with a 38-7 setback on Aug. 31 and dropped the Algiers team down in this week’s rankings.
The Cougars were one of two top-ranked high school teams to tumble from the top in Week 1. The other is the reigning Class 5A titlist West Monroe, which lost to Byrd High, 30-23.
Perhaps the glitz of Karr’s 17-6 jamboree win over St. Augustine made eyes turn away from St. Paul’s. But the Wolves proved that they will be a force in Class 5A by their demonstrative and systematic dismantling of the high-scoring Karr offense.
Coach Ken Sears and his staff had the Wolves well prepared on both sides of the ball. Their execution was near flawless, and even when St. Paul’s backs fumbled four times, the alert Wolves were able to recover three.
This week they were scheduled to meet Acadiana in the Dome. It should be a good one.
Ron Brocato can be reached at email@example.com.