(Rick Hickman / American Press)
Last Modified: Saturday, December 08, 2012 10:40 PM
NEW ORLEANS — Barbe parents, Barbe alums, new recruits to the Barbe family — they all gathered alike to party in the shadow of the Superdome on Saturday afternoon.
As with any tailgate party in this part of the country, Southern rock blared over loudspeakers as Barbe fans consumed chicken, sausage — even alligator — as they waited for the Buccaneers to take the field against Rummel in the Class 5A championship late Saturday night.
“This may be our first trip here (the Superdome), but this ain’t our first rodeo throwing a party,” said the host, Phil Tarver. “We didn’t just come here to party, we came here to win.”
Tarver, who rented tailgating space for Barbe fans across from the Superdome, was one of the non-alums to join the Barbe fanbase.
“It wasn’t easy jumping into the Barbe gang, but we’ve been here a while and it’s finally paying off,” joked Tarver, a LaGrange graduate whose wife and two sons graduated from Barbe.
Most of the crowd was clad in Columbia blue T-shirts, many of which read “no ceilings,” the mantra which Barbe has adopted this year.
But ask them their thoughts about the game and their reply was simple: “Go Bucs.”
Barbe students Carl Morrell, Justin Menard and Grant Loup were partaking in the food.
“Most teams wouldn’t do this,” Loup said of the tailgating party.
As game time approached, the party moved indoors and the east side of the Superdome took on a decidedly Barbe blue hue.
Brian Willis isn’t a Barbe graduate, although his company, Ace Striping, stripes Barbe’s field.
From Iowa — his son played on the Yellow Jackets’ 2007 baseball state title team — Willis said he’s been to most of the Bucs’ home games and decided to make the trip to New Orleans for the game.
“If you live in Calcasieu Parish, you ought to be a Barbe fan for today,” Willis said. “You ought to be wearing Columbia blue.”
In Calcasieu, both Westlake and Sulphur declared Saturday to be Barbe Buccaneer Day.
Mike Williford graduated from Barbe in 1999 and was on the last Bucs team to beat West Monroe, prior Barbe’s comeback win over the Rebels two Friday nights ago.
Now living in Carencro, he doesn’t make many Barbe games, but wasn’t going to miss the Bucs’ shot at a title.
“The cool thing about it is, you spend four years as a player chasing that ring — we never got it — you see these guys with the focus and leadership to overcome what they had to to get here,” Williford said. “Stuff like (the comeback win over West Monroe) that doesn’t happen to 17-year-old kids. You don’t get down by that much and have the mental fortitude to think we can still come back.”
Williford said he lives a mile from rival Carencro High School and hasn’t been able to avoid a little gloating.
“I’ve been wearing my letterman jacket all week,” he said.
James Bushnell, an ’84 grad who played for Jimmy Shaver and Charles Vicknair, traveled with his wife Jerri from Crowley to watch the game.
“It’s a very, very special moment being tied to the program,” Bushnell said. “As long as we have been watching them come so close for so long makes it that much more special.”
Saturday night was the culmination of a busy week for Barbe players and their families.
“It’s been very exciting,” said Jennifer Guillory, mother of Austin Guillory. She said she was stressed entering the West Monroe semifinal game, but all that was gone as she waited for the title game.
“It’s been wild, not only as a mom, but as a Barbe alum,” said Stephanie Burkhalter. Her son, Quinn, is on the team, and her brother, Bryan Bogle, played on the 1981 team that went to the finals.
“We haven’t stopped since the clock ticked zero on Friday. It’s been nonstop, getting them fed, getting T-shirts and keeping the boys grounded. We’re all exhausted, but it was worth it.”