Gonzales — It would be an understatement to describe football rivalries in Ascension Parish as intense.
In this part of the state, fans start tailgating on Thursday for the big Friday night game and it’s not unusual for area lawns to get “decorated” with rolls and rolls of toilet paper the week of a gridiron clash.
Even the pep rallies are big, with one an hours-long event with thousands of fans shouting to win the “spirit stick” — a piece of metal with two flags at each end — and a trophy.
One of the biggest games is the long-standing rivalry between district foes East Ascension and St. Amant high schools.
The annual St. Amant/EA Shout Out decided which school had the most spirit, and this year St. Amant went home with the prizes.
The Gators also went home with the game win and a trip to the playoffs against another cross-parish rival.
Now, the fan frenzy is ramped up with Dutchtown and St. Amant preparing for Friday night’s clash in round one of the high school playoffs.
St. Amant Booster Club President and Shout Out organizer James LeBlanc was hoarse after the Nov. 1 event at the Lamar-Dixon Center, which featured music from both school bands and dancing from cheerleaders, color guards and dance team members.
But, for LeBlanc, an East Ascension graduate who was converted into a Gator fan when his sons attended the school, the event is “all about community,” he said.
“We’ve got one of the best and biggest rivalry games in the state and we know how to do it in Ascension Parish,” LeBlanc screamed as 3,800 fans readied for the Shout Out’s yelling contest.
Shout Out activities, which included a golf tournament and jambalaya sale, raised $16,000 for each school this year.
“That’s a total of $60,000 for the two schools in five years,” LeBlanc said.
The two schools also helped the community, LeBlanc said, by collecting more than 7,000 pounds of canned food.
The East Ascension Future Farmers of America won the food drive contest and St. Amant alumni won the golf tournament.
The Shout Out organizers also sold 1,400 plates of jambalaya.
“But, we all can’t wait every year for the Shout Out,” LeBlanc said as he prepared to take the stage.
LeBlanc was joined on stage by Ralph Delatte.
The Shout Out began in 1999 when Jody Elisar and his brother Todd, both St. Amant High School alumni, were looking for a fundraiser and community event to celebrate the intense gridiron rivalry.
The Elisars met with co-founder James “Stump” Marchand and his brother Luke, both East Ascension High School alumni, and the Shout Out was born, LeBlanc said.
The first weeklong celebration featured a bass tournament, golf tournament and horse show. On the day before the game, the two schools would meet to cook and sell large amounts of jambalaya.
Later that afternoon, thousands of fans would gather in the parking lot of Dalton’s restaurant to listen to music and speeches from both teams’ head coaches before the back-and-forth shouting match began, LeBlanc said. A decibel meter was used to determine the winning school, which would receive the “spirit stick.”
After several years, the event ended.
The event was brought back in 2008 by LeBlanc, Bubba Richard and Alan Marrero, from St. Amant; and Ralph Delatte and Jodi Fife, of EA.
“It’s all about school pride and having good clean fun,” LeBlanc said.
That community spirit continues this week as St. Amant and Dutchtown fans prepare for the Friday night game at Dutchtown High School.
LeBlanc was busy Sunday getting a specially designed St. Amant playoff T-shirt ready for sale. St. Amant spirit coordinator Melissa McCormick said the school will be “golding out the Griffs” with an all-gold day and pep rally Friday.
At Dutchtown High, the school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes will be selling spirit towels to students all week and thanks to a donation from Dr. Brian Hollis, fans will get a free rally towel as they enter Griffin Field on Friday, Dutchtown spokeswoman Deenie Chandler said. Dutchtown also is selling playoff T-shirts this week, she said.
“It’s another big week in Ascension Parish football and we’re ready in Gator country,” LeBlanc said.
Across the parish, Chandler said the Griffins faithful are excited about the playoff game.