Barbe's Mike Cutrera has been named the 2012 American Press Southwest Louisiana Coach of the Year, as voted on by the head coaches from all the area's football-playing schools. (Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Monday, December 24, 2012 4:30 PM
A debut season in which he won nine games, reached the state quarterfinals and earned a share of the Southwest Louisiana Coach of the Year award did not leave Barbe’s Mike Cutrera much room for improvement, but his second season ended with a trip to the Superdome for a state championship game and a second Coach of the Year award.
Cutrera credits an outstanding support system with his early career success.
“Having a year of experience made things easier this year,” he said. “I learned a lot the first year, it is a lot different in this office than the other office. Everything comes through you now. You are not only dealing with coaching the kids, but with coaches, administration and everything else. I can’t stress how good a staff and administration we have, they are very supportive and that helps a lot.”
Coming off a good season last year, Cutrera did not hesitate to set lofty goals for this year’s team, which finished the season 13-2 and as the Class 5A runner-up. The Bucs reached the title game for the second time in school history. Cutrera played on the other team that reached the championship game in 1980.
“In the fall we talked about certain things, the history of Barbe, the last time we were in a state championship, an area team was in a state championship and won a state championship,” he said. “We started that early on. That is the type of mindset we were trying to get. We talked about playing 15 weeks. In high school ball, they allow you to play 15 and we want our kids to strive for that. We try to get the mindset of them working towards that.
“I think they were expecting a great deal of success because of the type of kids we have. They are hard-working, competitive, they look after each other. Each of them worked. They are competitive no matter what they are doing. That contributes a lot to our success. If we are competing for 48 minutes, we are going to have a chance. If you are not, you should not even be playing.”
The Bucs showed their toughness in a 49-48 semifinal win over West Monroe in which the team overcame a 27-point fourth quarter deficit against a team that had knocked them out of the playoffs eight times, including last year.
“There is no panic in the group we have. The things we stressed, overcoming, belief in what we were doing, find a way to win. For 45 minutes, it did not look good. For the last three, things started clicking for us and it was nice. That night was an unbelievable feeling. I remember hugging the coaches and my wife after that game and asking what just happened. It is an unbelievable feeling to win that game and know you are going to the state championship.
“It was great for the kids who were so excited and fired up, and for the student body who ran to the team after the game. It was unbelievable to get there because of the people that were involved, the coaches that we have, the players, the administration. It was nice to see the community come together. It is time for a team in Calcasieu Parish to win a championship, hopefully it happens soon.”
Championship week was a hectic one for Cutrera.
“The first time I relaxed is when we got on the bus that Friday to go to New Orleans, at that point it felt like everything was set,” he said. “Up until that point, it was a lot of worrying about if we had everything we needed. But watching the kids walk into the Superdome, watching their eyes being awestruck, was neat to see. It was the same way for us coaches.”
Cutrera had attended many Prep Classics as a fan.
“Several times I sat there and watched a team that had beaten us in the quarterfinals or semifinals,” he said. “Those hurt, watching those teams compete knowing that we had a chance to be there but it did not work out for us.”
The Bucs fell 35-14 to Rummel in the title game.
“I felt we played and competed well,” Cutrera said. “You have to give credit to Rummel. After the game, nothing I could say or do would take the hurt away from our kids, but with time they will look back and see that we accomplished a lot. We didn’t win a state championship, but we played 15 games. Not many teams get that opportunity. Having to talk to those guys then was hard, knowing that it is the last chance that group is going to be together in a locker room.”
Despite not getting the desired ending, Cutrera said the season was an unforgettable one.
“I will remember the way the kids pulled for one another, the way they loved one another,” he said. “To get kids to say they love one another is a big thing, some people think it is a sign of weakness, but it is not. These kids did everything we asked. I am glad they had a chance to have some success and play all 15 games.”
Cutrera said receiving the Coach of the Year honor again is meaningful to him.
“It is humbling to receive this honor, to look at the list of people who have won this award and won it multiple times,” he said. “It is not about me, it is about our staff and so many people that have done wonderful jobs. If we don’t have the type of coaches and kids we have, we would not have been put in this situation. Our success can be attributed to the type of student-athletes we have, the coaches we have and a supportive administration.”
Cutrera said he has learned from his predecessors at Barbe.
“From (Jimmy) Shaver, I learned how to deal with people and run a first-class program,” he said. “I still call him when I have problems. He is always there. He will come by and talk, he is a good guy to have. You look at the three guys on the wall here, Coach Nolan Viator, Coach Charles Vicknair and Coach Shaver, those are three guys that changed the way coaching was done in Southwest Louisiana. They have had a big impact on coaching in Southwest Louisiana and how football is played here.” Cutrera said the coaching staff from his playing days made a lasting impact on him.
“Coach Vicknair was my head coach and Shaver was my position coach,” he said. “That staff was phenomenal, there was Kirby Bruchhaus, Wayne Cespiva, Joe Crawford, Ronnie Odom, Henry Combs, it was great.”
Shortly into his college studies, Cutrera decided to follow in their footsteps.
“I went to McNeese for engineering and it lasted two weeks,” he said. “I played sports my entire life, in high school I played three sports (football, baseball and basketball), that was something I loved to do. That’s something I felt I knew. My favorite part about coaching is that I never come home and complain about my job, because it is always something new happening every day. You get to interact with great student-athletes.”
Cutrera said he is impressed by the area’s current crop of coaches and says credit must be given to the previous generation of coaches that have helped the current crop achieve success. The area had five teams in the quarterfinals for the first time in more than a decade this season.
“You can go back and look at guys like
Max Caldarera, Parry Lalande, Matt Viator and Mike Johns,” he said.
“They have played
a great role and influenced a lot of people in Southwest
Louisiana. They have helped the group we have at this time and are
a great group to learn from. It is in an exciting time for
football in Southwest Louisiana.”
The all-time winners of the American Press Southwest Louisiana Coach of the Year award:
• 2012 — Mike Cutrera, Barbe.
• 2011 — (tie) Mike Cutrera, Barbe; Rusty Phelps, Jennings.
• 2010 — Pat Miller, Oberlin.
• 2009 — (tie) Jules Sullen, LaGrange; Pat Miller, Oberlin.
• 2008 — Jimmy Shaver, Barbe.
• 2007 — Max Caldarera, Westlake.
• 2006 — Paul Bourgeois, Sulphur.
• 2005 — Paul Bourgeois, Sulphur.
• 2004 — Jimmy Shaver, Barbe.
• 2003 — Carl Flanagan, Sam Houston.
• 2002 — Parry LaLande, South Cameron.
• 2001 — Rick Wriborg, Iota.
• 2000 — Russ Sutherland, Iowa.
• 1999 — Rusty Phelps, Jennings.
• 1998 — Matt Viator, Sulphur.
• 1997 — Matt Viator, Sulphur.
• 1996 — Parry LaLande, South Cameron.
• 1995 — Danny Smith, Leesville.
• 1994 — Mike Johns, LaGrange.
• 1993 — Max Caldarera, Westlake.
• 1992 — Dutton Wall, Welsh.
• 1991 — Lewis Cook, Crowley.
• 1990 — Rick Wriborg, Iota.
• 1989 — Dutton Wall, Welsh.
• 1988 — Robert Lavergne, Washington-Marion.
• 1987 — Jimmy Shaver, Barbe.
• 1986 — Jimmy Shaver, Barbe.
• 1985 — Jimmy Shaver, Barbe.
• 1984 — Solomon Cannon, Washington-Marion.
• 1983 — Jimmy Shaver, Barbe.
• 1982 — Ronnie Chaumont, Jennings.
• 1981 — Dutton Wall, Welsh.
• 1980 — Charles Vicknair, Barbe.
• 1979 — Johnny Buck, Kinder.
• 1978 — Charles Vicknair, Barbe.
• 1977 — David Moore, Lake Charles.
• 1976 — (tie) David Paine, Merryville; Sidney Soileau, Jennings.
• 1975 — Johnny Buck, Kinder.
• 1974 — Baron Thomas, South Cameron.
• 1973 — Ted Brevelle, Rayne.
• 1972 — David Paine, Merryville.
• 1971 — Shannon Suarez, Sulphur.
• 1970 — Shannon Suarez, Sulphur.
• 1969 — Charles Oakley, LaGrange.
• 1968 — Shannon Suarez, Sulphur.
• 1967 — (tie) Johnny Buck, Kinder; Johnny Emmons, Lake Charles.
• 1966 — Robert Banna, New Iberia.
• 1965 — Rayford LeBlanc, Lafayette.
• 1964 — Billy Lantrip, Lake Charles.
• 1963 — Rayford LeBlanc, Lafayette.
• 1962 — Eddie Harrelson, Jennings.
• 1961 — Eddie Harrelson, Jennings.
• 1960 — Doug Hamley, LaGrange.
• 1959 — Doug Hamley, LaGrange.
• 1958 — Jimmie Austin, Lake Charles.
• 1957 — Jim Waldrop, Morgan City.
• 1956 — Mel Didier, Opelousas.
• 1955 — E.D. Kelly, DeRidder.
• 1954 — Jimmie Austin, Lake Charles.
• 1953 — Bennie Ellender, Westlake.
• 1952 — Joe Mount, Sulphur.
• 1951 — William Seever, Terrebonne.
• 1950 — Jake Neely, Jennings.
• 1949 — Dalton Faircloth, DeQuincy.