Walker: Stephen Robicheaux win away from bringing Destrehan fifth title _lowres

Advocate staff photo by ROD WALKER A sign at Destrehan displays its district and state championships.

The sign that sits behind the Destrehan High School end zone overlooking Thursday’s practice serves as a reminder of Stepehen Robicheaux’s success.

“2008 5A State Champions 14-0,” it reads at the top.

Below that: “2007 5A State Champions 15-0.”

Robicheaux is responsible for those two titles, the fourth and fifth in the school’s history.

On Saturday, he gets to add yet another one when Destrehan makes the short trip to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to play Acadiana for the Class 5A state title at 7 p.m.

And just like his previous two championships, he will once again be bringing an undefeated Wildcats team to the Dome.

It would be his third title in his past six seasons as a coach.

Or maybe that should say his fourth in six years.

He got out of coaching in 2010 and 2011 to watch his daughter, who was a cheerleader at St. Charles Catholic. The Comets won the state title in 2011.

“I will never regret that time I got with my daughter, watching her cheer and go to the Dome,” Robicheaux said. “But this is what I do. Coach football. It’s what I do and what I love.”

Robicheaux returned to the sideline the following year and is now one win away from bringing Destrehan its fifth state title.

This one would be extra special.

The program dropped off in the two years Robicheaux was away from it.

His first year back, the Wildcats went 4-5.

“All I ever wanted to do and all we ever talk about is getting this program back to where it needs to be,” Robicheaux said.

His Wildcats have lost just one game over the past two seasons, falling to Acadiana last season in the semifinals. They also had a forfeit loss because of the much-publicized Hudl incident in 2013.

Only one game this season, a 21-14 win over Thibodaux, has been decided by single digits.

He said there is no secret formula to his success.

But his players point to Robicheaux’s emphasis on what he simply calls the Destrehan Way.

“The Destrehan Way is playing with class, playing hard and being respectful,” explained senior running back Will Matthews. “He is just all about tradition. Everything he does is about the Destrehan Way. He brought that tradition back when he came back. I think that’s the main reason we started winning.”

Players refer to Robicheaux as a player’s coach, which explains the music that blares during practice.

Robicheaux admits he doesn’t know a whole lot about the songs playing, but he doesn’t care.

His players like it, so he likes it.

“If it’s not fun, it’s not worth it,” he said. “I don’t want the guys saying ‘Oh no, I have to go to practice today.’ ”

But while he can be fun during the week, that tends to change when kickoff nears.

“He is a funny guy, except on Friday nights,” Matthews said. “On Friday nights, he’s an animal.”

Senior safety Raekwon Morgan knows their coach is all business come game time.

“He is a cool coach, relaxed coach, but he ain’t the guy to mess with on Friday. He is focused and that’s the way it should be.”

Morgan too, talked about the Destrehan Way.

“Every player probably doesn’t come here as a team player, but they leave here as a team player,” Morgan said. “He instills that and I respect that.”

Former Wildcats appreciate it as well.

Jordan Jefferson, the former Destrehan quarterback who went on to play at LSU, spoke to the team Tuesday. Future NFL Hall of Famer Ed Reed was in attendance at the playoff game against Hahnville.

“This program means a lot to these guys,” Robicheaux said. “It means a lot for them to see us and for us to see them. Our philosophy is this. We don’t talk about wins. We talk about doing things the right way. This program is bigger than any individual. Guys buy into that.”

And that helps explain how the Wildcats went from a pass-happy offense in 2013 to a run-first offense this season.

“We went from throwing for 3,000 and rushing for 1,000 last year to rushing for 3,000 and throwing for 1,800 this year,” Robicheaux said. “Our philosophy hasn’t changed, but our identity has changed. Whether we are throwing or running, we are 14-0 and headed to the Superdome.”