St. Louis Catholic

Damage from Hurricane Laura is shown at St. Louis Catholic High School in Lake Charles.

There is no electricity or water. Many streets in Lake Charles remain blocked by the devastation Hurricane Laura left behind early Thursday.

If there was ever a time for despair or to give up, this might be it, right? But not in Louisiana. And not for high school sports. St. Louis Catholic athletic director Pat Neck said he believes that.

“When I first saw the pictures … it was tough,” Neck said. “And not just the pictures of our school. You have people who have lost their homes and businesses. The people in Louisiana … the coaches and other schools … they are amazing. And it shows.

"Since yesterday, I have been contacted by Catholic schools from across the state. And by coaches from everywhere. They want to know what they can do. They want to help us. That is Louisiana. I told them all that it will be a long road back. But we have hard-working, tough people, and we’ll get there.”

Hurricane Laura is not the first major storm the Lake Charles area has endured. Neck was on the St. Louis coaching staff in 2005 when the Saints welcomed student-athletes whose families had evacuated from New Orleans because of Hurricane Katrina. Then, Hurricane Rita ripped through the area weeks later.

Lake Charles and southwest Louisiana triumphantly rebuilt. Nearby Sulphur even hosted the LHSAA’s softball tourney months later.

Some things are different this time. Laura’s hurricane force winds were felt around the state. Places like Alexandria, Shreveport and Monroe have seldom, if ever, experienced this.

Executive director Eddie Bonine said Friday that the LHSAA is responding to 175 schools in 27 parishes that have reported storm damage.

Neck, who evacuated to Texas before the storm, knows he has fielded calls because the damage at his school is striking and has been shared in social media. Major sections of the roof are missing.

A commons area and a cafeteria are nearly unrecognizable. The school’s gym lost its roof, which means the court and old-style wooden bleachers will be replaced. Some storage facilities were destroyed.

With all that noted, Neck points to blessings.

“Our students, faculty and staff are safe and for that we are so thankful,” Neck said. “You can replace buildings, bleachers and equipment … not people. Any school will tell you people are their strength. It is ours.”

Should all the devastation force plans for fall seasons during the coronavirus pandemic to the back burner? Neck defiantly says no. He said the losses should force schools and the LHSAA to fight even harder for any 2020 fall seasons possible.

“I’ve spoken to all but one of the fall coaches on our staff,” Neck said. “We hope to meet soon to come up with a plan to move forward.

"Look at all these kids have been through going back to the spring when the virus shut seasons down and now this. They deserve everything we can give them. We need to play."


Email Robin Fambrough at rfambrough@theadvocate.com