Innocence mixed with a perfect touch of bravado is what sets high school sports apart for me.
You never know where you’re going to find it. And I’ll confess that, when I found it last week, I didn’t know what I had.
I had to smile after an interview with Parkview Baptist quarterback Reggie Hayes Jr. Naturally, I had asked Hayes how he felt about PBS advancing to the Division II select title game.
The answer I got may surprise you. At the time, I had no idea how on target Hayes would be.
“I was happy because it was something we worked so hard for,” Hayes said. “While we were celebrating on the field, somebody told me Catholic won in overtime. And I thought, ‘We play them every year. ... Good for them.’
“A little later, I found out Southern Lab won, too. I know some of their guys. Now we’re all going to New Orleans. I say Baton Rouge needs to go down there and take it ... win it all.”
OK, Reggie, you called it first.
Baton Rouge football experienced a day like no other Friday, winning three select state football titles at the Allstate Sugar Bowl/LHSAA Prep Classic.
Baton Rouge? Isn’t that supposed to be a basketball town? Yes, BR is awfully good at that sport too.
But when you live in Louisiana, winning a state football title is something every player dreams about. Baton Rouge has never had three teams play for titles since the Prep Classic started in 1981, let alone win three in the same day.
Now that doesn’t mean I’m softening my stance on the LHSAA’s split football championships. I think nine is too many, and I’d like to see the schools find a way to come back together.
But make no mistake about it: Things came together in a special way for Southern Lab, Parkview Baptist and Catholic in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Southern Lab got the party started. Things are never as easy as it looks, especially when you’re the team everyone thinks should win, and that’s what Southern Lab had to bear all season.
Big plays helped the Kittens take control early, leaving no doubt about a 36-2 win over St. Mary’s in Division IV. After that, Notre Dame edged Riverside Academy 13-3 in the Division III game, the only one without a local team.
Next up was Parkview. Everybody knew Hayes could run, and St. Thomas More, seeking its first state title, could pass and run. But it was Hayes who came up with a decisive play — a 47-yard TD pass to Jacob Ruffin with 1:55 remaining — to clinch a 24-21 win in Division II.
So there you have it: Both Southern Lab and Parkview took the fifth, as in the fifth state football titles for their schools. Catholic seemed like a long shot. Let’s face it: The Bears were a long shot since the playoffs started.
They were losing with less than two minutes to go in all of their playoff wins. It took a late fumble recovery in each game to set up the game-winning score. The Bears already had two punts blocked by Rummel, so you had to wonder whether the odds were in Catholic’s favor.
But Parker Fontenot’s 34-yard field goal on the final play gave sixth-seeded Catholic a 24-21 win over top-seeded Rummel. Catholic won the first football title in a rich history that dates back more than 100 years.
Parish rivals Lutcher and St. James play for the Class 3A title this week. Hayes and his friend Lindsey Scott Jr. dreamed about playing in title games during an August scrimmage — and now Scott and Zachary are in the Class 5A final.
Yes, it could get even better.