St. Thomas More football coach Jim Hightower kept staying the course, and that earned him a spot in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame _lowres

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- St. Thomas More football coach Jim Hightower: 'I enjoy working with the young men and seeing them develop, seeing the effort they put in. I get a thrill out of being on the sideline on Friday nights. That competition has never gotten old for me.'

LAFAYETTE — It’s time for coaches to get their first chance at seeing their game plans at work at the Kiwanis Jamboree at Cajun Field and Clark Field on Thursday.

Two private school powerhouses collide at Cajun Field when St. Thomas More and Notre Dame hook up.

The Cougars return their two biggest offensive pieces in quarterback Will Bellamy and running back Trevor Begue.

STM coach Jim Hightower said his team is showing of being close-knit for one another, something he said is a sign of success to come.

“This group has really impressed me,” Hightower said. “They show a lot of care for each other at practice. That is such an important quality. When you care about your teammates, that is a good sign, and I like what I’m seeing from this group.”

Notre Dame is returning 28 seniors from last year’s team, but Pioneers coach Lewis Cook will be filling a big void left by quarterback Brad Stoma. Stoma was under center at Notre Dame for three seasons, but Cook said he has a more than capable replacement in Joe Faulk.

“Joe played a lot last year, but as a running back and receiver,” Cook said. “He needs some downs at quarterback. Not having Stoma, we’ll start over a bit, but it’s been going well.”

Clark Field is the site of the jamboree matchup between Carencro and St. Martinville. Carencro makes a move from 5A to 4A — the classification they played in when the Bears won their last state championship in 1992.

Leading that ’92 team was Bears assistant Kevin Faulk, who was quick to point out that, despite the move down, the competition won’t be getting easier.

“A lot of people are saying, ‘Oh yeah. Y’all are going to dominate that league,’ ” Faulk said. “Not really the case. The competition gets stiffer. I’m pretty sure St. Thomas More, Teurlings and Northside are going to give us all we want.”

The jamboree will be the beginning of St. Martinville’s rebuilding effort under new coach Vincent DeRouen. The Tigers have struggled recently, but DeRouen said the community has a good outlook in a new district.

“I’m having the time of my life, and the kids are working real hard,” DeRouen said. “This community is football crazed. I have some good coaches with me, and we’re really having fun with it. We’re in a new district, but as long as we play Cecilia and Breaux Bridge, that’s all that matters.”