Robin Deck recently found a picture of the Catholic High team she coached in 2007, the last Baton Rouge region boys/coed division team to capture the LHSAA bowling championship.
At 11 a.m. Friday at All-Star Lanes, what may be Catholic’s best team since that time will be on hand for the semifinals to try to win two matches to end the long drought for Baton Rouge area schools.
The Central girls are in the semifinals for the second straight year in their division, and the drought for the local girls seems just as long. After Denham Springs appeared to be a long-lasting dynasty when they won the first four titles (2005-08) competed for official LHSAA recognition, no team from the Baton Rouge region has won.
Since then, Barbe of Lake Charles has won the boys/coed title three times, New Orleans area teams four times (including defending champ Brother Martin) and a win by Vandebilt Catholic of Houma.
On the girls side, Lafayette has three trophies since 2008, with St. Louis of Lake Charles, Albany and last year St. Scholastica taking down Central.
Both coaches are confident this might be the year for one or both. On paper, Central has the best girls scores, but there could be a rematch with St. Scholastica, a team that has always proven a tough out.
The Catholic boys are strong, but defending champion Brother Martin has shown the New Orleans’ area talent with an amazing 1,465 six-player score in the bi-regional followed by a 1,300.
Deck knows this 2016 squad has firepower, especially at the pivotal 1-2-3 spots and throws one more spot in as well.
“I think the 1-2-3-4 spot are going to be the keys to victory,” Deck said. “It’s expected on every team that the 5 and 6 can roll 200 games regularly and easily. It rattles the other team though when the 2 spot is rolling just as well or better than the 6 in a game.
“Like our first playoff win where our 2 spot (Brian Dinh) bowled a 290. … I know we have all six spots who are capable of 200 plus games. That’s going to be key.”
That’s why this year may be different for the two Baton Rouge teams. The state champs in the boys/coed lineup since Catholic in 2007 have deliver consistently bigger scores in the 1-2-3 spots because of more bowling experience (both in leagues and tournaments), and that has resulted in much higher averages in those spots, something the local teams haven’t matched.
The averages still can tilt against Baton Rouge boys/coed area teams, but the chances in a best-of-27-point match-play style of competition now gives the experienced team with slightly lower averages a chance to break through.
“It’s definitely a little odd that a Baton Rouge region team hasn’t won a state championship in a while, but I’ve seen a big improvement across the board from the local teams over the past couple years,” said Phil Godley, Central girls-boys coach.
“This year was probably the best bowling I’ve seen on the boys side in years. Whether that’s from coaches pushing their kids into youth leagues, getting extra coaching or getting better equipment, or a combination of everything, the competitiveness of teams is a lot better.”
Finally, it appears that no one would rather see Catholic return to the winner’s circle and break the streak more than the 2007 champions. Brett Vann was on that team, and he remembered what the last local boys/coed win was like.
“We all wanted to just touch and hold the trophy,” Vann said. “The fans were amazing, and I’ll never forget the atmosphere ever. I couldn’t believe we had pulled it off. It was such a grind to get there. So many hours of practice and hard work and dedication finally paid off. It was an exciting time in my life and I was so proud to be a part of something that special for me individually and as a team and for the school.”
The dream of a title is there for Catholic and Central, and if the dream comes true it would mark a new chapter in prep bowling in the Baton Rouge area.