Joe Cazedessus and Levi Matthews Jr. coach football teams in two different worlds in the same city.
Matthews’ Louisiana Youth Football League Warriors practice at North Street Park in Mid City.
Cazedessus’ Cypress Heights Academy Crusaders attend an independent Catholic school on Barringer Foreman Road on the opposite side of town. The Crusaders play in the Christian Elementary Football League.
Last year, as the Crusaders were about to take the field against the Panthers, another inner city team, Crusader quarterback Joseph Cazedessus noted the Panthers’ mismatched uniforms and ill-fitting helmets.
“We had all these nice jerseys,” said Cazedessus, 12. “And they didn’t.”
“He’s been playing since he was 6,” said Joe Cazedessus, 39, the Crusaders’ assistant coach and Joseph’s dad. “He’s faced teams all over the South. He’s used to seeing first-class uniforms.”
“I thought, maybe, they hadn’t had enough time to buy jerseys,” the quarterback said. “My dad said they might not have the money.”
Coach Cazedessus remembers the game against the Panthers as a good contest which the Crusaders won by a touchdown.
Walking to the car with his son after the game, Cazedessus used his cellphone to call Kevin Sanford, 41, a contractor and Cypress Heights’ assistant athletic director. The men talked about what they might do to raise money for the Panthers.
“Two weeks later, he had a car wash set up to raise money,” Cazedessus said.
The assistant coach told the story on WJBO. A Brusly listener drove to Cypress Heights.
“He left a check for $500,” Cazedessus said.
“Cypress Heights Academy placed the order for our uniforms, and picked up the difference, I think,” said Panther coach Garry Jackson, 31.
The Panthers practice at a field on Geronimo Street in North Baton Rouge. The team is sponsored by All Walks of Life Ministry, whose pastor, the Rev. Milton Brown, is Jackson’s assistant coach.
The little church doesn’t have the money for uniforms, said Jackson, who helped out at the car wash.
Matthews’ Warriors got help with uniforms at a second car wash. Matthews joined the soap and water brigade.
“Our teams come from Mid City, and not all the parents can afford new uniforms,” said Matthews, a 40-year-old car salesman who played on a Louisiana Youth Football team when he was 10 or 11.
Talking off the field, the coaches found they have much in common. They all have day jobs. Cazedessus is in industrial sales. They all have to pick up at least some of their players for practice, and they’re all subject to what Sanford calls “the 80-20 rule. Twenty percent of the parents do 100 percent of the work.”
All of the coaches rely on fundraisers. Matthews’ Warriors raised $1,200 with a car wash and “shaking the bucket” on street corners.
Cypress Heights has jambalaya dinners, pep rallies and condo raffles.
The coaches have this in common, too: They think it’s important for their players to help the other guy.
“Next year, we’ll hold a car wash,” said coach Matthews. “And give the money to another team.”