David Alexander acknowledges the differences between the decisions he made almost 30 years ago as a football coach and the one he made Wednesday morning.
Alexander, superintendent of Ascension Parish Public Schools, told schools their athletic teams will not be able to practice or play games this week in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
“I will never fault a football coach for working and trying to schedule a game,” Alexander said. “Their job is to prepare their team for games and put them in positions to play.
“If a coach is trying to find a game, he is doing his job. But … there are things other than football to consider.”
Alexander’s decision ended East Ascension’s plan to play at Zachary on Saturday. The fourth-ranked Broncos of Class 5A quickly found another opponent and will travel to Class 3A West Feliciana for a 7 p.m. Friday game.
East Feliciana coach Darius Matthews reached out to WFHS coach Hudson Fuller early Wednesday to say his team could not play Friday.
Late Tuesday night, Central reached an agreement to host University High Friday. Both teams had lost their opponents earlier in the week.
The Zachary-West Feliciana game is one of seven involving Baton Rouge area teams scheduled for Friday. One of those games, The Dunham School at Parkview Baptist, is contingent on PBS getting electricity restored to its school complex and stadium by Thursday.
In all, 32 games involving local-area teams have been canceled since Ida made landfall late Sunday. Ascension’s edict came one day after EBR schools were prohibited from playing Week 1 games. Livingston Parish’s football schools also will not play this week.
Alexander’s decision to prohibit practices and games came after consultation with state and parish officials. Alexander noted the differences between 2021 and 1992, the year he put his Lee High team through a practice during a heavy rain storm on the eve of Hurricane Andrew making landfall.
“It was raining so hard. I kept pushing them (Lee players) and telling them that we might have to play in those conditions,” Alexander recalled. “The guys on that team like to remind me about that.
“While we are grateful that things in our parish are not worse than we are, we are certainly experiencing a lot of community challenges from destruction of property to power outages and the shortage of fuel.
“We anxious to help our community get back on its feet and to help our students get back to school buildings and all the activities they enjoy, including band and athletics. Unfortunately, we are not in a position to allow any activities to take place on our campuses right now.”
St. Amant and Dutchtown had sought other opponents after their games with teams located in high-impact Ida areas had canceled.
Alexander said he spoke with Zachary Community Schools superintendent Scott Devillier, also a former high school football coach, during the process. He said he can relate to the Broncos’ dilemma. Zachary suffered less storm damage and is concerned about Week 2 and Week 3 games with two New Orleans schools heavily impacted by the storm, John Ehret and St. Augustine.
Those who contend on social media and other forums that football teams can play without practicing are wrong, according to Alexander.
“To play in a football game takes preparation,” Alexander said. “It’s not just about a game plan. Practice prepares players physiologically to play. Their heart rates go up, they are prepared to handle the impact and the heat.
“It also would not be a good idea to put teenagers on the roads going to practices when state and local officials say we should stay off of them because of fuel shortages and the fact that so many traffic lights are out.”
Some coaches, including Ascension Catholic’s Chris Schexnayder, echoed the similar sentiments, saying “We don’t have power in Donaldsonville and there are people whose homes were damaged. Football is not the top priority now.”
Week 1 Football
Games start at 7 p.m. unless otherwise listed.
University High (7-3A) at Central (4-5A)
Catholic (5-5A) at Our Lady of Good Counsel, Olney, Md.
Madison Prep (7-3A) at St. Thomas More (5-4A)
Brusly (7-3A) at Port Allen (8-2A)
Dunham (8-2A) at Parkview Baptist (7-3A), tentative, pending power restoration
Catholic-Pointe Coupee (5-1A) at Livonia (6-4A)
Hanson Memorial (8-1A) vs. St. John (7-1A) at Plaquemine High’s Canova Stadium
Episcopal (8-2A) vs. St. Michael (7-4A) at Olympia
Denham Springs (4-5A) at Mandeville (6-5A)
G.W. Carver (11-4A) vs. St. Amant (5-5A) at Dutchtown
Class 3A and below
Gueydan (4-1A) vs. Thrive Academy (6-1A) at McKinley
White Castle (7-1A) vs. Southern Lab (6-1A) at A.W. Mumford Stadium
East Ascension (5-5A) at Zachary (4-5A)
McKinley (5-5A) vs. Scotlandville (4-5A) at Memorial Stadium
Mentorship Academy (7-3A) at Central (4-5A)
Live Oak (4-5A) at Loranger (8-3A)
Walker (4-5A) at Ponchatoula (6-5A)
Northshore (6-5A) at Dutchtown (5-5A)
Jesuit (9-5A) at Woodlawn (5-5A)
Broadmoor (7-4A) at Covington (6-5A)
Istrouma (7-4A) at Kentwood (9-2A)
Plaquemine (7-4A) at Lake Charles College Prep (4-3A)
Tara (7-4A) at Hammond (6-5A)
North Central (5-1A) at Belaire (7-4A)
Class 3A and below
Donaldsonville (9-3A) vs. Assumption (8-4A) at Assumption
East Feliciana (8-2A) at West Feliciana (7-3A)
Grace King (8-5A) at Glen Oaks (7-3A)
Cedar Creek (2-1A) vs. Liberty (7-4A) at Olympia Stadium
Rosenwald Academy (10-3A) at Northeast (8-2A)
Madison Prep (7-3A) vs. Edna Karr (10-4A) Behrman Stadium
University (7-3A) vs. Rummel (10-5A) at Joe Yenni Stadium
Albany (8-3A) at Independence (9-2A)
Thibodaux (7-5A) at Lutcher (9-3A)
St. James (9-3A) at Terrebonne (7-5A)
Central Private (6-1A) at Central Catholic (8-1A)
East Iberville (7-1A) at Slaughter Community Charter (6-1A)
Ascension Catholic (7-1A) vs. Sci Academy (10-3A) at Joe Brown Stadium
Ascension Christian (7-1A) at Fisher (11-2A)