Jesuit, Martin remove Easton from football slates

By Ron Brocato, Clarion Herald Sports

So much for the rejuvenation of the fabled football rivalry between Jesuit and Warren Easton high schools.

And you can place a period at the end of the brief series of games between Brother Martin and Easton as well.

Neither will be renewed this fall.

Instead, Jesuit has replaced its longtime public (and most recently charter) school rival with Terrebonne, and Brother Martin has traded the Eagles for Yellowjackets at  Byrd High.

The rivalry between these principals has apparently lost its luster. Few high school football fans and none of the players on the rosters today are old enough to relate to the golden days of prep sports when the Jesuit vs. Easton or St. Aloysius vs. Easton games drew excited spectators to City Park’s horseshoe among the oaks like pied pipers.

The concession stands under the 25,000-seat stadium no longer sell pennants and pins touting the schools and their colors.

Why did the series end shortly after their rebirth?

It had little to do with the fact that Easton had beaten Jesuit in three of their last four meetings, or that the Eagles downed Martin by the lopsided scores of 29-0 and 48-30 in the two games they played since 2000 when the Crusaders last won, 35-7.

They had just grown too far apart to make the continuation of the rivalry feasible in the eyes of the two Catholic schools’ administrations and coaching staffs.

There were a few minor territorial disagreements among the Easton assistant coaches and those of the two opponents regarding pressbox seating. But that was just one semi-significant incident.

But another old Easton rival, Holy Cross, has stepped in, at least for the next two years. That rivalry dates back to 1922 when Holy Cross fielded its first football team. The two schools last played in 2012, a game the Tigers won in overtime, 35-34.

A trip back in time
The Jesuit vs. Easton rivalry has been well chronicled. The two began playing on a yearly basis in 1915 and made it an annual tradition until 1955, when the Catholic League was formed and vandalism to both campuses ended the relationship between the two administrations.

The series now stands 25 wins for Easton, 21 for Jesuit and 4 ties.

Prior to the formation of the Catholic League, the New Orleans Prep League was made up of public schools Warren Easton, Fortier (opened in 1931), Nicholls (1940), S.J. Peters (1926), Behrman (1935), McDonogh High (1952 as a co-ed school), East Jefferson and West Jefferson (1955) and their Catholic counterparts Jesuit, St. Aloysius, Holy Cross, Redemptorist (1946) and De La Salle (1949).

Easton played every one of them in one sport or another.

St. Aloysius, which became Brother Martin in 1969, fielded its first football team in 1921, one year before Holy Cross put on the pads.

The Crusaders (also known as the Panthers and the Saints back then) were no match for the large public school, losing their first three meetings by the outrageous scores of 68-0, 52-0 and 96-0.

By 1924, the team dropped down  to Class B, where it experienced some success against the likes of Newman, New Orleans Academy, Verrina and Rugby.

St. Aloysius moved back to Class A in 1930. Two years later, the football team finally defeated Easton, 12-6. But that joy was short-lived. It wasn’t until 1945 that the Crusaders prevailed again, 38-20.

Its most significant win came in 1955, when the Crusaders avenged a season-opening loss to the Eagles, 12-0, by winning the city championship, 13-0.

The series ended with Easton dominating by a winning margin of 28-7-3.

Brother Martin played Easton just four times, beginning in 1999. The Crusaders won the first two and the Eagles the last two.

Tigers vs. Eagles
Ranking among the city’s greatest football rivalries is the Easton-Holy Cross series.

They first played in 1922. And, with the exception of 1925 when Holy Cross tied the Eagles, 0-0, for a share of the Prep League title, the Tigers either lost to or tied Easton until 1937.

When former Jesuit assistant Louis Brownson took over as the Tigers’ head coach and athletic director in 1942, Holy Cross turned the series on its head. Until his tenure ended in 1955, Brownson’s teams beat Easton 10 of 12 meetings with one tie. The Tigers’ 45-6 victory in 1945 was a prelude to Holy Cross’ first state football championship.

Between 1960 and 1967, Holy Cross’ teams under coach John Kalbacher ruled the series, winning every game until the expansion of the Catholic League called a truce to the yearly battles.

By 1968, the Catholic League had expanded to eight teams with the addition of St. Augustine  (1967) and Cor Jesu (1968).

The public league grew even larger to 10 teams with the additions of John F. Kennedy and Abramson. Having to play nine district opponents, there was room for only one non-district game.

The situation got worse for Warren Easton’s football program, which had degraded following the 1963 season. The ensuing years produced just one winning season before integration brought former African-American schools into the LHSAA fold.

New districts were formed to include Carver, Clark and Booker T. Washington with O. Perry Walker, East Jefferson, West Jefferson and Kennedy in one district; and Cohen and Landry joining Fortier, Nicholls, McDonogh, Abramson and Warren Easton in the other Class 4A district.

By 1979, the state’s oldest public school could no longer compete in the larger districts, except in the sport of soccer.

Then known as a fundamental magnet school with a smaller enrollment, Easton dropped in class to 3A and remained in relatively anonymity until 1985 when its enrollment increased to a 4A level.

And, since its rise from the depths of Katrina in 2005 to a football power, Easton has won two class runners-up football trophies.

It remains to be seen if the resurgence of the Holy Cross-Easton rivalry exceeds its two-year contract. But here’s hoping. The series stands at 23-19-7 in favor of the Tigers.

Ron Brocato cam be reached at rbrocato@clarionherald.org.

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