(Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 05, 2012 10:31 PM
They’ve decked the halls but not with boughs of holly.
Instead, the halls of Barbe High School are decked out with blue and white balloons and ribbons, and not in preparation of the holiday season.
Oh a holiday is taking place on campus, but it has nothing to do with tradition, at least not in these parts.
For the first time in five years a Lake Area football team is headed to the state championship game. It’s been a lot longer than that for a city school.
And for Barbe itself, it’s been over three decades – 32 years to be exact – since the Bucs sent a team to the title game.
That trip to the final didn’t take nearly as long either, as that Barbe team only had to travel to McNeese State to play its big game.
Times have changed.
These Bucs, who have captured the imagination of not only the student body but also the community, with its drama-filled style of play, will be making their first trip to the Superdome in New Orleans for the championship Saturday night. Interest in the program has never been higher.
“Fun times,” vice principal Shannon Lafargue. “It’s wild, but it is a good wild.”
A good football team doesn’t mean all the troubles any high school might have goes completely away, but it sure makes things a lot nicer on campus. Everybody rallies around a good story, especially when it keeps finding exciting ways to win games.
“This is how high schools are supposed to be,” said Lafargue. “We get the kids excited, the faculty is excited and the community is excited. All three groups get behind the team and the school.
“To see the groups, especially the students and faculty, join together and get behind the team and the school is a great to watch.”
For some schools, like the recently-put-to-rest West Monroe Rebels, the trip to New Orleans has become almost an annual pilgrimage. The Rebels always seem to be headed to the title game.
That’s why as their fans were filing out of the stadium at Barbe Friday night, stunned by the Bucs’ comeback, many were already on their cell phones cancelling hotel reservations some had made a year earlier. Even more probably made some at halftime.
Barbe fans couldn’t be so gutsy. The disappointment of past losses, especially to West Monroe, kept a lid on the excitement until the giant comeback was complete.
The party officially kicked off when Trey Quinn pulled in Kennon Fontenot’s winning touchdown pass with 13 seconds left. Moments later, students rushed the field after the final gun and, for the most part, haven’t stopped celebrating since.
“We get to take a special journey that our students will remember for the rest of their lives,” said Lafargue.
He wasn’t just talking about the football players either.
Barbe has state championships in other sports. The last time came last spring when the Bucs beat Rummel for the baseball crown. Ironically, it will be Rummel they face again Saturday.
While all state titles should be celebrated, all are not equal. Football in the king, lifting the profile of an entire school.
“All of our kids, from the band, to the cheerleaders to everybody associated with the campus, get to showcase their talents,” said Lafargue. “The entire school finds a way to get involved. That just doesn’t happen every day.”
Which is what makes this a special week at Barbe.
For some schools this is might be old hat, but not for Barbe and not for Lake Charles.
Around these parts it’s a breath of fresh air.
Jim Gazzolo is managing sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org