By Ron Brocato, Sports
I was just 11 when I saw my first high school football game. In it, St. Aloysius defeated Jesuit to win its first New Orleans Prep League championship. As I remember, it was a chilly but sunny October Sunday afternoon.
That game took place in 1952, three years before the Catholic League was formed and 17 years before St. Aloysius closed its doors.
On Friday, Nov. 3, Jesuit and Brother Martin, a legacy of St. Aloysius, will play the final Catholic League game of the 2017 season.
It won’t be for any championship, but it will seem like it to coaches and players from the two teams.
In an era in which just about every school qualifies for the LHSAA playoffs, whether their record deserves it or not, the outcomes are significant only because they determine playoff seeding.
Back then, before the LHSAA allowed its principals to manipulate playoff qualifications to accommodate themselves and their allies, there was no doubt which school was a state champion. There was just one trophy each for the champions of the two or three classes in existence at that time.
Today there are nine trophies awarded: four for Select division winners and five for Non-select class winners. These go to schools whose principals don’t want to test their teams’ mettle against the Select schools even though history shows that public schools have annually won three of the five state championships on average.
Final observations for ‘17
This was hardly a banner year for the Catholic League. Overall, the talent level was not what it had been in the past. For the second year, John Curtis Christian School won the historically Catholic League.
In competition among Catholic schools, Brother Martin and Holy Cross have enjoyed the most success.
The Tigers, who won one Catholic League game and posted a 3-8 record in 2016, enters the final week with a 5-4 record and one of the top defenses in the district. Coach Eric Rebaudo’s team had key wins over Jesuit, Rummel and St. Augustine and lost to Brother Martin in the closing minutes, 26-22.
Mark Bonis’ Crusaders got off to a slow start by losing four of their first five games but have bounced back well and enter the finale against Jesuit on a four-game win streak.
For the second consecutive year, coach Al Jones has led St. Augustine to a winning record. The Purple Knights were 5-1 in district play during the 2016 season, losing only to John Curtis, 28-26.
This season, Jones’ boys went 5-1 before losing their last two district games. They close against Archbishop Rummel.
Moving out of the league for a moment, it’s been another banner season for De La Salle. Under Ryan Manale’s coaching, the Cavaliers are 8-0, should beat Donaldsonville at Pan Am on Nov. 2 and finally make it to the Select division finals. They proved that by beating Karr, Riverside and St. Charles Catholic, a quality trio.
Coach Frank Monica has done an incredible job with his Comets. St. Charles has been banged up all season long. Yet, Monica’s charges go into Week 10 against St. James with a 7-2 record.
Another outstanding coaching job was turned in by Scott Wattigny at Archbishop Hannan. For the second year in his three as the Hawks’ head coach, his team will have a winning record. They earned that early by winning their first seven games.
Surprisingly, St. Paul’s will yield the District 6-5A title to archrival Covington, to whom the Wolves lost, 21-20. They also lost to Mandeville, 28-14, and enter the final league game with a 5-4 record.
I do believe that this turn of events is just temporary.
Coaches Jay Roth of Rummel and Mark Songy of Jesuit will work to turn around the unusually subpar seasons posted by their teams.
Since winning its first four games, Rummel has lost its last four.
Songy’s 2014 Jesuit team finished with a 12-2 record and the Division I championship, but since has gone 5-7 (1-5, district) in 2015, 5-7 (2-4, district) in 2016, and has a 2-7 (1-4 district) record entering its 2017 finale on Friday.