Tony Bonura's eyes watered as soon as he started talking about it.
"Long time coming," said Bonura, De La Salle's athletic director and Class of 1986 alum. "Long time coming."
Indeed it has been.
Fifty-six long years to be exact.
But now, thanks to a potent running attack led by quarterback Julien Gums and a rock-solid defense, De La Salle will be playing for a state football championship for the first time since 1961.
Gums broke loose for a 35-yard touchdown with 3:33 left, carrying almost six decades of Cavalier frustrations with him, to put the lid on a historic 28-14 victory over St. Thomas More in the Division II select semifinals at Tulane's Yulman Stadium.
"The animal just came out in me, beast mode," Gums said. "I just hit the hole and ran for my life. I just wanted to help my team, that's all."
No. 1 De La Salle (11-0), seeking its first football state title, advances to the Division II title game on Dec. 8 to play University High, which beat St. Charles in Friday's other semifinal.
"This means everything," said De La Salle coach Ryan Manale, in his sixth season. "I'm so proud of these kids. Seeing them jump around. Seeing their parents jump around. De La Salle is going to the state championship."
Instead of the Cavaliers taking the bus for the short trip from 5300 St. Charles Ave. to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, perhaps they should just run there, just like they did time and time again Friday night.
The Cavs ran the ball on 42 of their 46 offensive plays. Gums rushed 26 times for 127 yards and three touchdowns, none bigger than the last one. It came after the No. 4 Cougars made halftime adjustments and limited the Cavs to just 23 yards in the second half to make it close. De La Salle running back Kendall Collins rushed 16 times for 76 yards.
St. Thomas More, the reigning Division III champ, finished 11-2. Caleb Holstein ran and threw for a touchdown for the Cougars.
"I thought our kids played hard, but we just didn't make enough plays and had a few miscues," said St. Thomas More coach Jim Hightower, the second-winningest coach in Louisiana history. "I'm awfully proud of the boys. We've been to the Superdome twice and got close this year, and we'll be knocking on the door again next year."
The Cougars won their first state title a season ago. Now the Cavs get their chance for their first in a long time.
They got off to a good start, scoring on their first two possessions on runs by Collins and Gums.
The Cavaliers stepped up big in the second quarter. Jordan Clark and Thedore Tyler both had sacks in the quarter and finished with two each. The Cavs got a pair of interceptions in the second quarter as well, capitalizing on the second one.
Lance Robinson, who has verbally committed to Kansas State, got the first one that set the Cavs up at the Cougars' 15-yard line. But Gums fumbled two plays later.
De La Salle got the ball right back on Joseph Husband's interception, and this time the Cavs made the Cougars pay. Gums capped off the drive with an 11-yard run that gave De La Salle a 21-7 halftime lead.
"Julien Gums has it," Manale said. "He could have shut it down because he hasn't fumbled all year, but he didn't. He's just a leader. He's been a leader all year, not just on the football field."