SULPHUR — There will be far more than bragging rights are on the line Saturday when St. Thomas More and Teurlings Catholic run onto the turf field at McMurry Park.
The longstanding Catholic school rivals and District 5-4A members have combined to play for the Class 4A state championship four of the past five years, with the programs winning the championship on three of those occasions.
There will be a fourth Saturday when No. 2 STM takes on No. 5 Teurlings Catholic at 2 p.m. on Field 41.
“I think it is a great,” said STM coach Gary Perkins, who has guided the Cougars to a third straight title game. “It is great for our district and for Lafayette. I think it is outstanding for both schools. The rivalry has been there for years. Hopefully it will be a classic game and hopefully all the fans of both teams show up.”
“These are two outstanding ballclubs and great programs,” said Teurlings Catholic coach Mike Thibodeaux, who led the Rebels to state titles in 2010 and 2012. “This is unlike any other ballgame. You can’t rely on past games. Those games hold no bearing on what will happen Saturday.
“It is about this moment.”
The teams faced off twice this year in district play, and both games could be considered classics. STM took the first game 4-3, and then came the regular-season finale for both teams. Thanks to severe weather across Acadiana, the game was played in Sulphur, with STM prevailing 4-3 in 12 innings.
“It was amazing,” Perkins said. “That game we had to play was an hour and half away in Sulphur, and it was prom day for us. It is 4:30 p.m. and we are still playing. The kids didn’t bat an eyelash.”
The Cougars have gotten the best of the crosstown Rebels for the better part of three years.
STM has won five straight against Teurlings Catholic, including a 4-3 victory in the 2013 state semifinals. The last victory for the Rebels was a 6-0 win during the 2013 regular season.
Perkins knows both sides of the rivalry; he coached at Teurlings Catholic for more than a decade, taking the baseball team twice to the state championship game — and winning it all in 1990.
“I don’t think the kids on either side want to lose to each other,” Perkins said. “It doesn’t matter if you beat them two or three times in a row. The other team is always going to be ready to play. It is always going to be a tough game.”
Part of the rivalry between the programs is tied to the fact that one is viewed as a country school and the other is a city school. Teurlings Catholic’s student base consists of kids from the north side of Lafayette, Carencro and St. Martin and St. Landry Parishes. STM is on the south side of town and draws students from that part of Lafayette as well as surrounding areas such as Youngsville.
Even though that may be a misconception, as students from both areas attend each school, the Rebels have embraced the image of being the blue-collar program in the rivalry.
“There is an atmosphere around both schools,” Thibodeaux said. “Both schools have a lot of similarities, with both being Catholic schools that promote faith-based education, but the identities of both are polar opposites. We are used to that, and we embrace being the blue-collar team. These kids identify with that, and that just adds to the rivalry.”
Both coaches are confident that his team is more than ready to claim the state championship, and a large part has to do with the passion the rivalry promotes.
“All I know is that when you have a group of kids with a passion for the sport and get them going in one direction with a purpose,” Perkins said, “then you have a chance at winning.”