NEW ORLEANS — Reaching the Class 4A state championship football game in the Superdome would be a big milestone in McDonogh 35 coach Wayne Reese’s long and successful career.

Standing in the way, however, is old nemesis Neville, which has beaten McDonogh 35 twice in the past three years.

However, for McDonogh 35 to be playing in the 4A semifinals is a feat in itself for the Roneagles and for Reese. McDonogh 35 heads to Monroe for Friday night’s game with an 8-5 record and didn’t have the look of a playoff team and certainly not one of Reese’s better ones.

Yet, Reese said he is not surprised.

“We’ve got a rough schedule,” said Reese. “But I was disappointed in this: We’ve got as much talent as anybody in Louisiana, but it just didn’t jell fast enough. Every game we played, we scored, we had good yardage. It was just a matter of time.”

It certainly has been a matter of time for Reese. He has been a high school football coach for 41 years, the past 28 as a head coach. The last time he guided a team to the semifinals, he said, was in 1999 with Lake Charles’ Washington-Marion, which lost to Lutcher.

Over the years, he has done it pretty much the same way, he said, with hard work and a Pro Set offense and 50 defensive scheme. And although that state title has been elusive, his teams — first at Booker T. Washington, then Carver and now McDonogh 35 after the stint at Washington-Marion — have been playoff mainstays. Just calling Reese a successful coach doesn’t do him justice. He is known more as a program builder and keeper.

“That’s what I admire about him,” said Karr Coach Jabbar Juluke, whose team is 12-0 and seeking its third consecutive appearance in the 4A final. “His teams win, but you have to look at what he does for his players in terms of developing them as young men.”

Juluke said he patterned his own program after Reese’s at McDonogh 35.

“It takes hard work and dedication to be doing this for 40 years and be that successful,” Juluke said. “I’ve taken some things from coach. I like the way he picks up his players, shows them tough love and makes sure they further their education.

“Also, he provides structure. Their kids can’t wear dreadlocks. Ours can’t wear earrings. And not only do his players get athletic scholarships, they go to college, period.”

Reese said he’s just applying lessons he learned from his coach at Woodson Junior High School, Winston Burns, and his coach at Xavier Prep, Willie McKee.

“I took from them the importance of hard work, being honest in everything you do and making sure the kids believed in what you were doing and trying to do,” he said. “Make sure the kids understood what you really wanted, and you could get some feedback from them.”

Through all the changes in offenses – from the option and wishbone to the West Coast to the spread — Reese basically has remained the same, employing the Pro Set, which is rooted in 1960s NFL.

“I’m old school,” he said. “My offense, we still have two running backs. We might run from the ‘I.’ What I’ll do, I’ll get in that (newer) formation but still run the same old thing. The No. 1 thing in football is you’ve got to sell your kids on what you’re doing.”

Reese said his son, Wayne Jr., was a tough sell. Reese Jr. played center on some of Reese’s Carver teams, then played at Grambling State before joining his dad’s staff.

“He came in and really wanted to change the offense,” Reese said. “I sat down with him and showed him there’s no difference in this stretch run and this sweep.”

Reese Jr. said he found there was no need to change offenses.

“The Pro Set is very versatile,” he said. “And what I love about it is how you can really feature the tight end.”

The five-man defensive front also is a staple.

“When the Miami Dolphins used it, they called it the ‘No-name defense,’ ” said Reese, who starred at Tennessee State (1965-69) before a knee injury cut short his NFL career. “Tennessee State used it under Joe W. Gilliam (Sr.). I used to go back to talk to him, because as an offensive coach, you’ve got to know defenses to be able to solve some of the things they throw at you.”

He chuckles when he says “Nobody uses it now.”

The biggest changes in his career, he said, are television and high technology.

“You can film practice now and go back to school and see the mistakes you’ve made,” he said.

He said that has helped coaching but also has widened the gap between poorer public schools and more affluent ones.

“We’re just fortunate enough to have had some kids I’ve coached like Calvin Magee and Marshall (Faulk) who’ve given back. And ‘35 has a strong alumni that helps us a lot.”

Reese, 67, said he wants to coach about two or three more years.

“I won’t go until they build the new school they’re building back at (the site of the former) Phillips (Junior High),” he said. “They’ll have their own stadium, track, and I was part of that. “Never has a public school in New Orleans had all the facilities you need to compete against the big boys.”