GRAND LAKE — When the 2018 high school football season ended, it was also the end of the storied South Cameron football team after years of low enrollment left the Tarpons with barely enough players to field a team.
But the program will live on — in a way — as a handful of former Tarpons will put on a new jersey this year. Four former Tarpons have transferred to Cameron Parish rival Grand Lake.
Thanks to a ruling in late June by the Louisiana High School Athletic Association, seniors Brayden Richard (quarterback/safety) and Kade Billiot (wide receiver/defensive back) are immediately eligible. Junior wide receiver/defensive back Kolby Pugh and sophomore lineman Brett King will have to sit out a year, per transfer rules.
"As soon as the season ended there were talks that we could be able to play," Richard said. "It gave me another chance to play football again.
"That is what my whole family has done, play football. I really wanted to play my senior year and I was really excited when I found out I was going to get to play."
After beating Hamilton Christian 41-26 for homecoming in Week 4, the Tarpons had to forfeit four of their final five games last year. Richard said it was tough trying to keep playing knowing the program's end was near.
"For the past two or three years, it was always a possibility that this could be our last year," Richard said. "Last year really hit hard that it could be the last year.
"It was rough, I am not going to lie. We had to play some younger guys and I kind of felt bad for them to be put in that situation so fast. We tried our hearts out and we did all that we could do."
Billiot said his junior season was a challenge but is excited to be playing again after an adjustment period from the red, white and blue of South Cameron to Grand Lake's maroon and yellow.
"I was sad (last season)," Billiot said. "It kind of sucked to be honest.
"We had to let the clock run because everybody was getting hurt. I am happy. It feels weird (to transfer to Grand Lake), but I am getting used to it."
Billiot said it took time for many of the lifelong Tarpons fans in his family to come around to the idea of him playing for Grand Lake.
"Some of them liked it and some didn't, but I just wanted to play," Billiot said. "Everyone is nice over here (Grand Lake). They make you feel at home.
"Everybody has been working hard, so I think we are going to be good this year."
Richard said he is looking forward to running the Hornets' triple-option offense.
"It is really exciting being able to take control of the offense," Richard said. It is the best position to play on the field."
Since Grand Lake brought its program back in 2013, the schools split six games. Grand Lake won the last, 35-0 in 2017 and by forfeit last season.
"It has been a tough situation for the South Cameron kids and community," said first-year Grand Lake head coach Jeff Wainwright, who is a South Cameron graduate. "The last two or three years has been a really rough situation.
"That was an important game for Grand Lake and South Cameron, but now we don't have that anymore. I hope people can embrace that and come out and support us. It will work out. The motto each day is to become better and united because we are bringing these two groups together. We are going to be united on the field and we are going to build something special."