It has been a long time since a Lake Area team has won a state football championship, even longer for a Lake Charles school.
Barbe hopes to change all that Saturday night.
The Bucs will play Archbishop Rummel for the Class 5A championship in the Superdome. It marks the second time Barbe has played for the state title, losing in 1980 in a game played at McNeese State.
The following year all the championship games were moved to New Orleans. The Bucs have been close since, but never made it into the final.
West Monroe was the biggest reason why.
That foe finally slayed, the Bucs look to make history. However, history is against them when it comes to local teams in the Dome.
Since the finals were moved to the Superdome, Lake Area teams are 2-13 with Iota winning in 1999 and Jennings in 1992.
That’s 13 years since the area has celebrated a championship in football, much longer for the city. The last Lake Charles school to win the crown was Boston High School in 1972 — 40 years ago.
“We need a state championship here in Lake Charles,” said former Barbe head coach Jimmy Shaver, who led the Bucs to the championship game in 1980. “One thing is, Barbe deserves an opportunity to play there, they dserve an opportunity to win this thing. All the years we’ve spent to get the program to where it is, they deserve it. It’s time.”
The last time a city school played for a title was in 1990, when Washington-Marion lost in the last three championship appearances over a seven-season period.
No area team has made the trip to New Orleans since Westlake did it in 2007, following Sulphur the year before.
That’s a drought that would turn any area into a desert.
Barbe wants to change that all and will have the eyes of an entire area focused on its every move.
“When you see all these people supporting you, you don’t realize that many people were interested in what you were doing,” said former Sulphur head coach Harold Fusilier, who was a defensive coordinator on the 2006 runner-up Tors team.
“You feel a lot of responsibility when you get there.”
And the Dome can be overwhelming. It takes some time to get adjusted to not only the size but also the feel to the Dome.
“You walk in the Superdome and there’s nothing but goosebumps all over you when you’re getting ready in the pre-practice before the game and everything else, said former Westlake head coach Max Caldarera. “It’s just a remarkable experience. it is the best feeling you can experience as a football program.”
Westlake lost that night by the smallest of margins, 19-18.
For Barbe, the dream of winning a championship as been an elusive one. Now the Bucs have a chance to change that and maybe change the karma of an entire community.
It’s been a long time in the making, but Barbe is finally taking center stage.
• When: 8 p.m. Saturday
• Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
• Radio: KLCL (1470-AM)
• Series: 1-1.
• Last Meeting: Barbe 32, Rummel 28, 2010.
• Head Coaches: Mike Cutrera, Barbe, second season; Jay Roth, Rummel, 18th season.
• State Titles: None.
• Last Time In State Final: Barbe lost to East St. John, 15-8, in 1980; Rummel lost to West Monroe, 30-0, in 2009.
• Road To Dome: Barbe beat Terrebonne 24-7, C.E. Byrd 38-21, Parkway 45-35, West Monroe, 49-48. Rummel beat Lafayette, 49-7, Dutchtown, 21-10, Ouachita, 23-19, Mandeville, 17-14.
• When Rummel Has The Ball: Stop if you have heard this before, Barbe’s young defense will have to try and stop the Raiders power-running game. It is a ball-control attack that will try to eat up the clock and wear down the Barbe defensive, which has given up huge chunks of yardage this year. The Bucs gave up 546 yards all on the ground to West Monroe in the semifinals, 295 going to quarterback Michael Mims. The Bucs did force a pair of turnovers which led to 14 points and helped fuel the winning comeback.
• Key Players For Rummel: Senior quarterback Damian Williams will lead the Raiders attack. He has accounted for 2,529 yards of total offense and 26 touchdowns. Junior tailback Keith Fulton has rushed for 1,102 yards and scored 20 TDs.
• Keys for Rummel: Rummel is seeking the first state championship in the 49-year history of its program and to do so must control the ball offensively and consume clock time with its rushing attack. Senior quarterback Damian Williams and junior tailback Keith Fulton are key figures in those plans. Williams, as he has all season, is the Raiders’ physical and spiritual leader and is making his second state championship game start. But it is the Rebels secondary of corners Henré Toliver, Dontrell Bennett and Austin Vance and safeties Dwayne Eugene and Damarius Crawford that will be tested most by Barbe’s pass-crazy offense.
• When Barbe Has The Ball: They will have to score as many points as they can and stretch the field against a Raider defense that has not seen this type of speed all season. The Bucs will try to get out to a lead early in hopes of taking Rummel’s offense out of its game plan, which is to pound the football. Barbe must also be able to run the football enough to control the clock at least enough to help out its young defense and give it some rest. That means the Bucs, led by junior quarterback Kennon Fontenot, can’t turn the ball over. It has gotten them in trouble in games.
• Key Players For Barbe: Fontenot is the main man. He has thrown for 4,119 yards and 45 touchdowns while being intercepted 10 times. He has also rushed for 566 yards and eight more scores. But he seems at his best when he improvises. Chased out of the pocket against West Monroe, Fontenot ran himself to freedom and was able to throw for 423 yards and six TDs while leading an amazing comeback that saw Barbe score three times in the final 2:11 for the 49-48 win. His favorite targets of are receiver Trey Quinn with 111 catches for 2,094 yards and 26 touchdowns and tight end Desean Smith (42, 730, 9). Courtney Galentine leads the run attack with 1,058 yards and 16 touchdowns but is also a weapon as a pass catcher with 56 grabs for 719 yards and another four scores.