LAFAYETTE — It may be surprising to learn that neither Teurlings Catholic nor St. Thomas More has made it to the Superdome to play for a state championship.
The winner of Friday night’s cross-town rivalry between the Rebels and Cougars will make history for their respective schools and punch that elusive New Orleans ticket. Despite never making it to a final, Teurlings coach Sonny Charpentier and STM coach Jim Hightower have had many teams over the years that were close to that achievement.
“We’ve had about five teams through my years here that had a real good chance,” Charpentier said. “We got beat by a good Patterson team one year (2002) at home and one year (2001) we got beat by Belle Chase. If you’re good enough, you’ll win one. If not, it may not be in the cards — and that’s OK.”
Hightower won a state championship in 1978 with Catholic-Pointe Coupee, but since taking over at STM, he hasn’t duplicated that feat. Hightower said he didn’t have any specific recollections of specific STM teams but, he said making it this far means you’re pretty successful.
“It comes down to making more plays than the other team,” he said. “Anytime you’re in the semifinals, you’ve had a successful year. We’ve played some really close games and it just wasn’t meant to be. Our kids perform at high level all the time, and sometimes the talent level on the other side is more than what you have on your squad.”
Charpentier remembered his 1999 and 2010 teams both had a good chance, but Edna Karr ended up being their demise. In 2012, the Rebels seemed to be destined for the Dome, but a 34-27 loss at McDonogh 35 ended the run.
“We played well that night against McDonogh, and if we won, we’d have had to go up to play Neville,” Charpentier said. “That was before the split, which we liked the way because it (involved) playing everybody. It was one of those deals where we wanted to measure ourselves up against Neville.
“In that game, (McDonogh 35) had a fourth-and-15. We stop them, we win the ballgame. We don’t get a stop, and they scored on the last play of the game.”
Charpentier said to win a state title, your team has to be good, but also has to have some luck.
“It’s not necessarily if you’re good, but it’s about who else is good,” Charpentier said. “Some years, you may have a very good football team, but someone else might be a little better. That’s been the case some years where the ball just doesn’t bounce our way.”
Hightower agreed, saying that he doesn’t need another state championship to validate his team or his career.
“It’s not something that I need. It’s just something every team aspires to do,” Hightower said. “When you start the season, that is what you want, but it’s certainly not the only measuring stick for a successful season.”
Charpentier said as a competitor, he wants to win one, but it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t happen.
“You don’t measure a program on state championships,” Charpentier said. “I’d much prefer to have a consistent program that is good every year and has a chance (to win a title). I think STM is a program like that. I think we have a program like that.
“What we’ve done, we have won our share of football games. I don’t think state championships measure success. I tell people all the time I lay my head down on the pillow every night, and if I don’t ever get there, it doesn’t mean I don’t want to. It doesn’t mean I don’t try and work hard for it. I think if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen and if not, so be it.”