“When the Game Stands Tall” was released Friday in theaters across the country Friday.
The film is based on the true story of California high school football team De La Salle and its record 151-game winning streak.
The football scenes were filmed at Joe Yenni Stadium, home of the East Jefferson football team, in the summer of 2013.
“They worked well around our schedule,” former East Jefferson coach Nick Saltaformaggio said.
“The only inconvenience we had was they took over our lockers.”
I gave the movie 3 stars (on a 5-star scale).
De La Salle’s streak was stopped early in the movie. But in typical team-overcomes-obstacles-sports-movie-fashion, the Spartans battle through health issues of their coach, death of a teammate, and an overbearing parent and bounce back.
The sequel was better.
Well, there is no sequel.
But the East Jefferson football team followed up the filming with a made-for-Hollywood sequel of its own.
“Maybe they will make a movie about us one day,” said Jamal Veazey, a star defensive back on last year’s EJ team. “They should.”
With the 2014 season less than two weeks away, let’s take a look back at what turned out to be THE story of the 2013 football season.
Here’s the script of When the Game Stands Tall Part 2: The East Jefferson Story.
East Jefferson, which had never won a state championship, won all 15 games it played last season and won its first title.
Not many people saw that coming.
A quote from The New Orleans Advocate Preseason Football Edition had this to say about the Warriors this time a year ago.
“Salmen, East Jefferson and Franklinton are very good and all capable of winning district. ... A return to the playoffs is expected.”
Boy were we wrong.
East Jefferson steamrolled through the district, winning its five district games by a combined score of 232-15. (No, that’s not a misprint.)
They gave up just 32 points the entire regular season.
In the playoffs, the fairy tale script continued.
First up was McDonogh 35, which eliminated the Warriors the year before.
EJ got revenge, winning 24-0.
Then came North DeSoto and another easy win. Final score: 44-6.
Next up was Warren Easton in an all-New Orleans showdown between one of the state’s best offenses against the best defense. The best defense prevailed.
Of course, no sports movie works without a little David vs. Goliath story and a little last-second drama, right?
So how about let’s have Isaac Espinoza kick an 18-yard field goal from a very bad angle as time expires against the No. 1 seeded team.
Yep, that happened. East Jefferson 18, Neville 15.
Let’s end the sequel in arguably the most storied sports venue in the world: the Superdome.
Cinderella East Jefferson vs. Edna Karr.
The Cougars, making their fourth straight trip to the Dome, were loaded. They had two of the nation’s best players in Speedy Noil and Gerald Willis.
Eighteen others on the team went on to sign to play college football.
East Jefferson countered with barely recruited guys like Ronald Green, Eugene Wells and Veazey.
But the Warriors also had all the intangibles found in any sports movie like grit and determination.
Many of the quotes in When the Game Stands Tall could have just as easily applied to East Jefferson.
“It’s not about the record, it’s about the team.” “It’s about the man next to you.” “It’s a brotherhood.”
“Run hard and don’t look back.”
And that’s just what Veazey did on the play that sealed the historic win, picking off a pass and racing 30 yards to seal the 38-28 win.
Will the Hollywood magic continue for East Jefferson? (Make sure to grab a copy of Tuesday’s edition of The New Orleans Advocate for this year’s special high school section to see what we think?)
But what we know is the Warriors enter the season with the state’s longest winning streak: 15 straight.
They are still 136 consecutive wins (that’s about nine more undefeated seasons) away from catching De La Salle’s record.
Most of the cast, including Green and Wells, from last season is gone.
So is the director.
Saltaformaggio is now coaching at Hahnville.
“Maybe I need to get them to film a movie over here at Hahnville,” he said.
Follow Rod Walker on Twitter @rwalkerAdvocate