An air of excitement spread through the stands and into the Zachary High press box. The University High football team was locked in a Week 5 battle with Zachary High.
Both teams were defending LHSAA champions. The Broncos scored first. U-High led by just seven points, 28-21, at halftime. The prospect of seeing and reporting on two high-profile local teams playing down to the wire was riveting.
And then it wasn’t. The Cubs took control of the game in the second half and won 49-27, outscoring Zachary 21-6 in the second half.
Was this U-High team one of Baton Rouge’s best ever? Yes is the answer, according to coaches and others who followed high school football in Baton Rouge for decades.
The Cubs finished 13-0 for the second straight year and won a second consecutive LHSAA Division II select title. It wasn’t until coach Chad Mahaffey’s team got into a 55-46 shootout with St. Thomas More in the Division II final that the Cubs had a close one.
"I haven't seen a local team that matches them across the board and I've coached since 1986," Central coach Sid Edwards said in Dec. 5 story about the Cubs’ dominance. "The Redemptorist teams we had in 2002-03 were 29-1, beat John Curtis and were very good. In terms of talent, the only other team I've seen on that level was the 1990 Ruston team."
There were many accolades for this U-High team. The Cubs were ranked in the top 10 nationally by USA Today at one point and also were nationally ranked by MaxPreps. The senior-laden team had seven seniors sign, six of whom went to BCS schools..
Just as notable was the list of teams the Cubs beat. Zachary did not lose again and won its second straight 5A title. Another 5A foe, Catholic High, was the Division I runner-up.
West Feliciana coach Robb Odom summed up the views from a coaching perspective in the same Dec. 5 story.
"You ask me to name a Baton Rouge team on their level and I really cannot. In this day and time, it is hard to get kids to play together and for each other,” Odom said. “They do that. Plus, they get coached up every day. They are in the right schemes, they execute and they play hard."