Gustav’s destruction wipes out Week 1 games

Peter Silas Pasqua

As a new week unfolds, local coaches are optimistic about returning to the gridiron after all area games were canceled last week in the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav.

But with Hurricane Ike churning its way into the Gulf of Mexico with predictions of landfall later this week, they remain cautious.

“I think the most important thing for us is to get everyone refocused,” East Ascension head coach John Lambert said Monday. “It has got to hurt our seniors. I tell them you are not guaranteed more than 10 games and now they are not guaranteed more than nine and if (Hurricane Ike) turns towards us, who knows what is going to happen.”

Lambert said the Spartans’ contest at Denham Springs remains scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m. A decision was expected to be made this morning whether to move the game forward to Thursday in anticipation for Ike.

“We won’t get a game in and so does Denham Springs,” Lambert said. “Denham Springs has already practiced twice for us and we haven’t picked up a football in over a week so we’ve got work to do. You just have to take advantage of what you have left.”

East Ascension’s season opener against Redemptorist was canceled last week as well as St. Amant’s against Parkview Baptist and Dutchtown’s against Assumption.

St. Amant is taking the same approach as East Ascension in its preparation for its away game against Lutcher which remains scheduled for Friday with the possibility of the contest being moved up to Thursday. Dutchtown did not know whether its opponent, H.L. Bourgeois out of Terrebonne Parish where Gustav came ashore, would be allowed to play as of Monday.

“It sounds like it will happen,” St. Amant head coach David Oliver said Monday. “Right now we have it scheduled for Friday but there is a chance that we will have to move it up to Thursday for Ike. There is a chance that it won’t go on but there is a chance that it will, too.”

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association announced Monday that Week 2 contests may be played any day during the week, by mutual agreement and must be completed by midnight Sept. 15. Schools canceling contests and/or picking up new opponents must notify the LHSAA.

The LHSAA also said that any contest scheduled for this week may be played regardless if a school is in session as long as both schools agree.

“It depends on each parish. Each parish makes that decision,” Dutchtown head coach Benny Saia said Monday. “H.L. Bourgeois wasn’t damaged that much but the other three high schools were in Terrebonne Parish. They are trying to decide whether or not they are going to let them all play or let none of them play. We just have to wait and see. It is bad not knowing.”

Saia said if Dutchtown does face H.L. Bourgeois, there is a possibility that the game will be switched from Houma to Geismar giving the Griffins essentially a home game. 

All three coaches said the lost week has been hard on their teams.

“We haven’t been able to practice,” Lambert said. “Today we are just going to get together and meet. Go outside and walk though. Jog some and try to get the kinks out and spider webs off.

“There are two ways you can look at it. First, any little dings or banged ups we had after the jamboree or scrimmage, those are all healed. But the negative part is you are not getting  a chance to practice and all the things you did at camp to prepare and get your kids in shape, we have to kind of start over now. We are going to struggle a little bit as far as that goes.”

Dutchtown and St. Amant even discussed playing each other this week if neither of their opponents were able to play.

“We want to play every week,” Saia said. “You only get 10 games. It is not like baseball or basketball. Now that is nine and it might be eight.”

Oliver said he was hoping to get in a game last week, no matter the opponent.

“We were trying hard to get a game for our kids,” Oliver said. “Once the storm came through and settled, I felt like they needed something to get their minds off it. They practiced hard and sacrificed together and they deserved a game. We exhausted every possible avenue to find them one and it just wasn’t in the cards so we are going to go without that one and move forward preparing for Lutcher.”

“I think it hurt our momentum but by the same token our kids also realize that there are more important things in life. Football is an important part of our lives but it is not the only part. We put God and family first and in a situation like this we have to take care of our families and neighbors.”

Lambert said coaches met with players Monday for the first time since the storm. 

“We got power back at the field house Friday night,” Lambert said. “The coaches came in on Saturday to watch game film and we finalized the game plan on Sunday. Today will be the first day we get a chance to meet with our kids in well over a week.”

Oliver met with his team Friday in an organizational meeting. 

“A lot of kids had some property damage but it seems like all of our kids are accounted for and we gathered them back up,” Oliver said. We mobilized them on Saturday and did some running, conditioning and weight lifting we are in the process of getting ready for Lutcher. We are out here today practicing right now.”

Saia had scheduled a meeting for Thursday to meet with his team.

“We had a team meeting with about half of them there, just trying to see who was in town,” Saia said. “It is bad. We are going to practice today. We don’t know who we are playing or if we are playing.”