Dennis Skains’ initial response was that he wasn’t ready to leave South Lafourche, where he was given his first opportunity to build a football program.
While he guided the Tarpons to 24 wins and four straight Class 5A state playoff appearances, deep down he felt the job was not done.
However, the lure of moving closer to his hometown of Lafayette, coupled with the opportunity to direct a tradition-rich program and work with close colleagues, eventually pushed Skains to accept the head coaching position at Cecilia.
“The personal reasons kind of outweighed everything,” Skains said. “It was still an extremely hard decision. When they first offered the job, I turned it down. You work so hard and put so much into a program, it makes it difficult to walk away. If you’re ever going to leave a program, you’re never going to feel like you’re finished.”
The 37-year-old Skains, who played and coached at Teurlings Catholic, replaces Terry Martin who recently left to accept a similar position at Breaux Bridge.
“It was an incredibly tough decision,” Skains said. “It’s such a great school with great community support. I knew (Cecilia) would be an opportunity to get close to home, be part of a program with a great tradition and have the opportunity to work with coaches I’ve known or wanted to work with.”
Cecilia rose to statewide prominence during the mid-1990s under James Waguespack who took the Bulldogs to three Class 3A state championship games in a four-year period — culminated by a state title win over Karr in 1995.
The Bulldogs captured the District 5-4A championship in 2015 and reached the Class 4A state regionals before falling to eventual state runner-up Karr.
Skains’ coaching career has been shaped by two of the state’s most successful coaches in former Belle Chasse coach Bob Becnel and current Teurlings Catholic coach Sonny Charpentier.
Before taking over at South Lafourche, Skains served for three years at Belle Chasse under Becnel, whose influence was greater than X’s and O’s.
“He’s the most organized man, and I learned so much how to run a team, how to run a practice,” Skains said.
Charpentier’s impact was far-reaching going back to the football coach who coached Skains in his senior season as a wide receiver and defensive back.
Skains later returned to his alma mater for eight years beginning in 2001 and worked with defensive backs and outside linebackers. His responsibilities also grew to running the program’s weight room.
“There’s no one better to learn under than Sonny Charpentier,” Skains said. “I got into coaching because I wanted to win football games. I learned quickly through him that’s not why you coach. You learn how you can impact lives. He’s a great Christian man who cares about people. You learn how to do things the right way.”
Skains has already hired Charpentier’s son — former Opelousas Catholic head coach Dane Charpentier — to be his offensive coordinator and met with Cecilia’s existing staff Thursday. He finished his last day at South Lafourche on Friday and is hoping to complete his moving process and begin his new job later this week.
“I’m going to Cecilia to be a small part of something that’s been there for a long time,” Skains said.
“I’m honored to try and have the opportunity to do that. I’m going to work as hard I can and do everything in my power to add to that tradition and make people continue to be proud of Cecilia football.”