Adversity turns into banner year

Published 12:35 am Thursday, May 20, 2021

Warren Arceneaux

Area high school teams produced more hardware this semester than any I can recall, capped off with Barbe claiming the final LHSAA trophy of the school year with the 5A baseball trophy.

Going out with a trophy haul is the opposite end of the spectrum of how the season started — tallying damage to campuses and facilities from the hurricanes: wondering if/when schools would open and if sports would be played.

Even the onset of an abbreviated football season that included all but a handful of local programs did little to end the mystery as teams throughout the area and state were forced to shut down for a week or two at a time to follow COVID protocols.

Kinder and Grand Lake made runs to the state championship game, but the good cheer following that could not kill off the uncertainty of whether the winter sports would be allowed to finish.

Thankfully they did, with area girls teams starting the trophy haul as Fairview, LaGrange, St. Louis and Lake Arthur all won state titles.

That haul never stopped, with the St. Louis girls sweeping both the indoor and outdoor titles. The Saints boys won golf and tennis, and the Saints baseball team capped off its second half surge with a state title — ten years after the program’s most recent championship.

Lake Charles College Prep won its first-ever state title, winning the Class 3A boys track and field title.

The Reeves girls and Hackberry boys also won state track titles.

Barbe softball ended a run of near-misses by winning the state title after several heartbreaking losses in Sulphur over the past decade. The Bucs girls golf team added to the school’s trophy haul.

The baseball tournament capped the four-month run in style with Rosepine joining St. Louis and Barbe as champions while Grand Lake and Elizabeth finished as runners-up.

The stars of those teams — Barbe’s pitching tandem of Gavin Guidry and Jack Walker, Rosepine’s two-sport stars Ethan Frey and Grant Ducote, St. Louis seniors Evan Joubert, Chase Wilson and Parker Morgan — created lasting memories and legacies.

So did players from teams that didn’t win. Sam Houston’s Alex Norris displayed what legendary UCLA hoops coach John Wooden called competitive greatness — being at your best when your best is needed — in holding Barbe, arguably the country’s best high school baseball team, scoreless over ten innings while battling Walker in the greatest high-stakes game I have witnessed in more than two decades covering prep sports.

Grand Lake’s Kade Massey pitched a dominant game in his team’s semifinal win over LaSalle and teammate Devin David was just as good in the final, where the Hornets held juggernaut Oak Grove to four runs — the Tigers had scored 16, 20 and 21 in its other three playoff games. Elizabeth pitcher Alex Chamberlain carried the Bulldogs to new heights as they reached the state tourney for the first time as a Class B school.

The players in all sports this year had to deal with more hardships and had to make more sacrifices than any class before them. They deserve praise for that regardless of their team’s outcome.

So do the parents, coaches, facility operators and administrators who put in extra work to give kids a chance to play. Iowa’s baseball team made it to the 3A state tournament without playing a home game. After a tough semifinal loss, head coach Daniel Hennigan expressed thanks.

“It was not just the community like Iowa, it was the baseball community,” Hennigan said.

“It was people like Coach Estes from Jennings, Coach Reed from Westlake, Coach Moore from Sulphur calling and saying ‘come on over, whatever you need, you got it.’ There was no reason for them to do that as far as competition goes, yet they did it.”

Iowa’s team, which Hennigan described as “a scrappy bunch of dudes who played the game the right way every time,” supplied their own passion no matter the setting.

“No field, no backstop, no fence, nothing but grass and dirt,” Hennigan said.

“But these guys have played a lot of baseball. Backyard ball, paper cup ball. That’s what it is. You’re playing the funnest game on Earth. The bases are still 90 feet, the ball is still the same size. You just have to go play. That is what they’ve done their whole careers.”

Warren Arceneaux covers high school sports. Email him at””Warren ArceneauxAmerican Press