Dwain Jenkins and Tim Detillier rode from St. James Parish to New Orleans together Tuesday morning. Jenkins drove. Detillier sat in the passenger seat.
They were in town to speak at the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation Quarterback Club’s weekly luncheon.
The two will return to New Orleans on Saturday, but they won’t be riding together then.
Jenkins will be with his St. James Wildcats.
Detillier will be with his Lutcher Bulldogs.
The two friends will stand on opposite sidelines of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, trying to outwit each other and lead their schools to a Class 3A state title.
Almost every citizen of St. James Parish will be sitting in the stands to watch the two schools separated by just 25 miles.
“The only people who will be left in the parish are those working the Bonfire Festival,” Detillier said.
The Festival of the Bonfires, in its 25th year, is a big deal in St. James Parish.
But this Saturday, the parish will be thinking more about the St. James Super Bowl.
“The parish is proud,” Detillier said. “Usually they are proud if one team makes it. Now we have both. So it’s a special, special moment. The good news is somebody is going to bring a state championship back. The bad news is somebody’s gotta lose.”
It’s the second meeting of the season between top-seed seed Lutcher (13-1) and No. 15 St. James (11-3).
The schools played for the first time in 10 years in October in a District 9-3A game.
Lutcher won that one, giving Detillier early bragging rights in his first head-to-head meeting against Jenkins, his former player and former assistant coach.
Jenkins, a 1997 Lutcher grad, was the starting quarterback for Detillier as a senior.
He later became Jenkins’ assistant at Lutcher for 10 seasons (three years as receivers coach, seven as offensive coordinator) before taking over at St. James three seasons ago.
The two remain close, talking every day.
“I’m glad we’ve played each other once already,” Jenkins said. “We have a great relationship. It’s a weird thing. Since I left Lutcher three years ago, I know that every Friday except one he is pulling for me to win; and every Friday except one, I’m pulling for him to win. I guess this will have to be the second time we’re not pulling for each other. I really expect it to be a great game.”
The October meeting wasn’t. Lutcher won handily 32-0.
But that was before St. James junior quarterback Lowell Narcisse’s unexpected return after tearing his ACL in the spring. Narcisse, considered the nation’s top dual threat quarterback in the Class of 2017, returned for the playoffs and resurrected the Wildcats into a legitimate championship contender.
He’s so good that Detillier doesn’t even call Narcisse by his first name. He refers to him as simply “Mr. Narcisse.”
“He changes everything,” said Detillier, who has a pretty nifty quarterback of his own in Jontre Kirklin.
Win or lose, the two guys in charge will remain close afterward, just like they have been for close to 20 years, since Jenkins took snaps for the Bulldogs.
“I’ve always had a good relationship with my quarterbacks, and Dwain was always a student of the game,” Detillier said.
It was a no-brainer for Detillier to hire his former quarterback.
It didn’t take long to see it was a good fit.
Detillier won his first state title in Jenkins’ first year as an assistant in 2003.
Then when a fire damaged Lutcher in May 2006, Detillier decided to promote Jenkins to offensive coordinator.
The team lost everything in the fire and had to work out of trailers, and Detillier had to take care of more than just a football team.
“They were investigating the fire, and I was talking to some kind of federal agent or fire marshall every single day, so I really didn’t have time to worry about calling plays,” Detillier said. “But I knew Dwain could handle it.”
Lutcher won the state title again that fall and won another one two years later in 2008.
It’s the last one Detillier and Jenkins won together.
But one of them will win again Saturday.
“It’s kinda surreal,” Jenkins said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think the first time I got to the Dome as a head coach I’d be playing against him. It’s special in a lot of ways.”
Jenkins knows exactly how special it is for those on both sides of the river in St. James Parish. He still lives on the east bank (the Lutcher side) of the river and sees it every day when he makes his morning commute to work at St. James.
“When I leave home, I drive and pass all the signs that say ‘Go Bulldogs,’” he said. “Then I cross the river, and I see the ‘Go Wildcats’ signs.”
One side will celebrate Saturday afternoon around 2:30 p.m.
The other side will be disappointed.
When the clock hits all zeroes Saturday, two coaches will meet at midfield, forgo the handshake and instead exchange hugs, just like they did in October.
“I would think it will be the same as it was then, but even deeper because of what this game means,” Detillier said. “But in the end, whether it’s five, 10, or 20 years from now, we are going to look back and know what a special time this was.”