The second act

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
Benny Saia won 110 games in his 15 years at Dutchtown. Photo by DKMoon Photography.

It came as a big surprise to many folks in Ascension Parish and the Baton Rouge area when Dutchtown head football coach and athletic director Benny Saia announced last week that he would be stepping down after 15 years.

But it shouldn’t have been. Saia said that it was something that he had been thinking about for a while. Finally, things became clear to him and he decided that it was time walk away.

So, just like that, Dutchtown has lost the only football coach they’ve ever had.

Saia built the program from scratch. He guided it in its infancy and kept building until it was one of the big boys on the block.

During his 15-year tenure at the school, the Griffins won 110 games and four district championships.

They had two undefeated regular seasons and reached the state quarterfinals on three separate occasions.

Under his tutelage, 56 standouts went on to play college football. Three of those players reached the NFL.

Eric Reid was a first-round selection for the 49ers and went on to make the Pro Bowl as a rookie. Eddie Lacy also made the Pro Bowl as a rookie when he took over as starting running back for the Packers.

Finally, Landon Collins emerged as one of the best safeties in the league this past season. In making the Pro Bowl, he helped lead the Giants back to the playoffs.

Saia said that after 31 years, he needed a break from coaching. He said that he would like to return to coaching down the line, but it’s still a wait-and-see scenario.

In the meantime, he will continue to be a teacher.

Prior to coming to Dutchtown, Saia coached at his alma mater Tara, Thibodaux, Woodlawn and even my alma mater, Catholic High of Pointe Coupee

An interesting side note, Ascension athletics has some interesting links to tiny CHSPC.

Besides Saia, Ascension Catholic softball coach Don Henry coached there back in the day. Also, before Jimmy Iturralde led St. Amant softball to their first ever state title, he coached the Hornets as well.

Now, the post-Benny Saia era begins for Dutchtown. For the first time ever, they’ll head into a football season without him prowling their sideline on Friday nights.

So, the search now begins for a new Griffin head coach.

It’s a position that should draw an ample amount of attention. There is plenty there for any coach to find appealing.

The parish alone is one of the top areas in the state when it comes to the sheer passion of the fan bases. The fervent excitement, the rivalries, the tailgating, the raucous student sections, the myriad of talent spread throughout the parish—they all create an atmosphere that is like heaven to a football fan.

And it doesn’t get much bigger than coaching the Griffins.

It’s big-time Class 5A high-school football, competing against two other heavyweights in the parish in East Ascension and St. Amant.

And if you do get past those two rivals, then you have an annual clash with Catholic of Baton Rouge on the schedule. Other teams that are there to test your mettle are Lutcher, Zachary and Central—just to name a few.

I’ve never met a coach that doesn’t like a challenge, that doesn’t want to play the best, and that’s the opportunity that you get when you coach one of Ascension’s 5A schools.

Dutchtown is a place with a tremendous football tradition. Though the football program is just 15 years old, it has seen so many accomplishments and high-water marks in that time.

When you pace the sidelines at Griffin Field, you’re doing so in a place where NFL Pro Bowlers have played.

And when it comes to the off-the-field aspect, Dutchtown has continued to carry itself well. In the classroom, it has proven itself to be one of the premier public schools in the state with an “A” rating and a high average ACT score for their students.

Whomever becomes Dutchtown’s second ever football coach, he will have big shoes to fill, but I’m sure that’s just another challenge aspiring Griffin coaches will be excited to conquer.