St. Louis football field

High winds from Hurricane Laura damaged the outside fencing and some signage at St. Louis Catholic High School. 

Prep football is a go.

The LHSAA is moving forward with the prep football season after confirming Friday the season will start on Oct. 8.

While the decision was met with a sigh of relief by many coaches and players, Southwest La. teams have another major hurdle to overcome as they recover from the devastation of Hurricane Laura. It is not known when area teams will be able to join the rest of the state for fall sports.

“I think that is a positive step in the right direction,” Jennings head football coach Rusty Phelps said. “We can’t forget the devastation that has happened in our area. We can‘t forget the people that are homeless and without electricity. That it’s the thing that takes precedent right now.”

LHSAA executive director Eddie Bonnie said that the prep football season will start regardless of what phase of recovery from the coronavirus pandemic the state is in, contrary to statements in July that the state would have to move past Phase 3 for football games to begin. Gov. John Bel Edwards released a statement after the meeting that his proclamations were never meant to stop football according to a story by the Baton Rouge Advocate.

The LHSAA also got a legal opinion from state Attorney General Jeff Landry that the LHSAA and schools would not be bound by the coronavirus liabilities in Act 9.

Sulphur High head coach Chris Towery has high hopes that area teams will rebound from the storm and get to play this season.

“I hope these kids get a chance to play football,” Towery said. “That is going to be up to the Calcasieu Parish School Board at the end of the day. 

“Calcasieu Parish is doing a great job getting out to the schools. I went to the athletic complex the other day and crews were on the roof. It is just a matter of how fast they get them (schools) repaired. I am hoping by the end of this week or next we get a little bit of an idea of what is going on. I am going to do everything in my power to allow the kids to play football. This community wants to play football. It breaks the monotony of what is going on. I have been around town helping people. Everyone is out working, not waiting for anyone to do it for them. We are going to rebuild and come back better than ever.”

Towery has experience in dealing with hurricanes. In 2005, he was the offensive coordinator at Redeptorist when Hurricane Katrina rolled in. The Wolves won the Class 3A state championship.

“It is just unfortunate for anyone in general,” Towery said. “It (Hurricane Laura) is the worst I have ever seen. I have been through Katrina and Gustav. 

“The year we won the state championship at Redemptorist I was the offensive coordinator when Katrina hit. We have to get Tornado Land up and running so we can play.”

While Phelps, who is two wins away from 200 in his career, is looking forward to the season, his focus is making sure his players are ok and ready to return to school.

“I think our main concern right now is getting our kids back in school and making sure they are re taken care of,” Phelps said. “We will get back to football practice when our central office allows us to. 

“There are a lot of trees down and roofs that got torn up. Nothing like I saw yesterday in Lake Charles. The deviation and destruction. My heart goes out to those people in that parish and the surrounding parishes that got hit hard. Our school is in great shape. There was an old shed that turned over. That old oak on the north of the stadium hit the scoreboard. We can replace the scoreboard. It (oak tree) split right down in the middle. We are very blessed and fortunate over here.”

While Sulphur High’s main building took a beating from Hurricane Laura, Matt Walker Memorial Stadium is in decent shape other than a pair of light poles on the visitor side that toppled into the stadium. Sulphur will likely have to play day games like it did after Hurricane Rita in 2005.

“The stadium is ok other than a couple of light poles,” Towery said. “It messed the top of the visitor bleacher. 

“You can pick those poles up and play a day game. Matt Walker held up really well. Our office, equipment and weight rooms are fine. The school itself is jacked up. We will get to all that other stuff when it is time. Right now, they need to concentrate on the family and community.”

Another major announcement that came out of Friday’s meeting is the LHSAA will allow fans for football and volleyball games. Football will be limited to 50 percent of stadium capacity while volleyball will be limited to 50 people while the state remains in Phase 2.

“Just watching these high school games that have been on tv and following other states, it seems to me that everyone is doing a good job of social distancing,” Phelps said. “I am glad they made that decision. 

“We will just have to see what our local school board will decide to do and keep everyone safe.”

Towery said fans are a key part of the football.

“They understand that fans are a high part of the game,” Towery said. “Sulphur football wouldn’t be a Sulphur football game without all the other stuff that goes with it. 

“Our atmosphere is second to none. Without all that, it wouldn’t be the same. If no one is bringing in any gate money, that is a big part of our budget, how do we function. We will still be able to get a decent crowd, if we can get to a point to play. We will get there. It is just a matter of what the protocol is with the parish.”

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