EUNICE — It looked so easy at first.
Then reality paid a visit a week later, says Paul Trosclair.
“In that first game (as a head coach) we scored 52 points and after that game I thought, ‘There’s nothing to this,’ ” Trosclair said.
“Then in the next game, after you think you know it all, we played Merryville and lost by 25. Things were falling apart quickly, it was becoming a rout and on the sidelines we had kids crying. I learned real fast about being a head coach.”
Now 198 victories later — 160 of them at Eunice High — after Trosclair’s first win at Oakdale 24 seasons ago, he is positioned to enter a small group of state coaches that have 200 career victories.
Trosclair’s teams have already achieved more victories than any other football team in Eunice High history, surpassing even the legendary Faize Mahfouz, a Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame inductee, who is heralded for introducing the Wing-T offense to state football during the 1950s.
Although there are less than 50 Louisiana high school coaches whose teams have won 200 or more games, Trosclair said it’s a pinnacle that he’s never sought to achieve.
“I was filling out one of those (preseason) questionnaires a year ago, and I realized then that (200 wins) was attainable if we could have a good season,” Trosclair said. “Before that it was nothing I really thought about.”
Trosclair has a chance to collect win No. 200 Thursday night when Eunice opens the season at Northwest High, a regional St. Landry Parish opponent.
Trosclair said he has been careful not to make this season all about him.
“It’s nothing that I have talked to the team about. I don’t know if they even know about it,” Trosclair said. “If they do, they really haven’t said anything. In this situation you really don’t want to put too much pressure on their shoulders. I guess it’s like going for a no-hitter. It’s better the less you say about it.”
Trosclair said when he left Eunice as an assistant to take the Oakdale head coaching job in 1990, he didn’t know what to expect.
“I never thought I would even get a win,” he said.
Then in 1995 and 39 head-coaching victories later, Trosclair replaced current Acadia Parish School Superintendent Johnny Bourque as the head coach at Eunice High.
“I give Johnny a lot of credit. When I got back to Eunice (as head coach), there was a foundation for the program that had already been established,” Trosclair said. I just had to run with it.”
Bourque said by the time Trosclair returned to Eunice to become the Bobcats coach, he was a seasoned leader, with all the qualities necessary to handle the job and the program’s tradition.
“(Trosclair) was our offensive coordinator before he went to Oakdale, and you could see he was very sharp, very intense,” Bourque said. “He was what you would call a student of the game.”
In perhaps a move that could be labeled ironic, Bourque sent Trosclair, then a young assistant, to the University of Delaware, the same program that a young Mahfouz visited four decades earlier, to study and learn the fundamentals of Wing-T football.
When Trosclair returned with the formation’s fundamentals sufficiently entrenched, Bourque said the future of Eunice football began to appear.
Bourque said Trosclair not only learned the offense, but Eunice still use sa modern version of the formation.
“You can do a lot of things with the Wing-T, run the football, control the clock and also be real aggressive. It contains misdirection, and you can play with less talented players.
“(Paul) has become an expert at running the offense,” said Bourque, who still attends some Eunice football games.
Trosclair brought Eunice to state championship games in 1997 and 1998, but there is one game he said, that stands above all the rest.
In 1997 Trosclair said, Eunice trailed Hammond 24-7 at halftime in a semifinal playoff game and then launched a feverish comeback to 25-24 win on a field goal in the final seconds.
“That game is one that the people in Hammond still remember too,” said Trosclair, who recalled that a woman from there approached him recently and mentioned the outcome of that game.
In a somewhat unusual situation, Thursday night’s game features not only the possibility of Trosclair winning his 200th, but the chance that recently named Northwest coach Chris Edwards could win his first career game.
Edwards said the Eunice program is one that he has always admired, primarily for its longevity and success.
“When you play Eunice, you face a team you know that may not give you that much to look at, but it’s going to be a team that is always coached up,” Edwards said.
“The thing I’ve liked about (Eunice) is they don’t have 50 plays in their book. They run a few plays, but they run them well. They force you to defend against those, which is not always easy to do.
“I like the repetition that they have. They do over and over the things that it takes to win, and they do them their way.”