It's too bad today's Barbe-Sam Houston softball game is happening in the quarterfinal round instead of on the big stage of Sulphur's Frasch Park for a variety of reasons, the most important of which is both teams are good enough to bring home a state championship, but one of them won't get the opportunity.
That's a shame but doesn't really take away from the anticipation or stakes heading into the game. It brings to mind some of the other big playoff games we have had featuring two area teams.
Over the past 15 years or so, the one that seemed the most significant was the Barbe-Sulphur semifinal baseball game in 2015. The Bucs were the reigning champs, but the Tors had the best player in the state in pitcher Kale Breaux and another top starting pitcher in Kyle Griffin. Barbe finished fourth in the district play that year, losing twice to the Tors. Sulphur was 35-2 entering the game and had not lost at home all year.
The game was so big it was front-page news in the American Press. The accompanying picture shows the packed stands, with fans lined up several rows deep under the bleachers trying to get a peak, as well as fans on the top rows of the adjoining field turned around to get a glimpse of the Bucs and Tors. Unofficial estimates placed the crowd at between 4,000-5,000 fans.
The game delivered, with the Bucs scoring twice in the bottom of the sixth inning to win 4-3 en route to another state championship. Bucs pitcher Adam Goree struck out 10 in his first-ever relief appearance to earn the win.
The last state tournament, in 2019, featured a Sam Houston-Barbe final that technically had bigger stakes than the 2015 Tors-Bucs game. It didn't feel as big, perhaps because there was less build-up for it with one off day between the semifinals and finals. Rainy weather also moved the game back three days into a weekday, giving it a weird feel.
That tournament did produce a classic though, with South Beauregard beating Iowa 2-1 in nine innings in a Class 3A semifinal. Oberlin beat Merryville in the semifinals en route to winning the Class 1A title that year.
In 2018, the host Tors found themselves on the right side of a thriller, beating West Calcasieu rival Sam Houston 4-3 in extra innings, with current McNeese State star Will Dion picking up the win in relief. The day was a daily double of sorts for Tors fans, as Barbe lost in the first semifinal before the Tors-Broncos classic.
In other sports, Fairview has made a habit of beating other area teams during its reign over Class B girls basketball. The Panthers beat Hathaway in state championship games in 2011, again in the final in each of the past two years and in a 2010 semifinal game. Lacassine has been Fairview's favorite area target, with the Panthers beating the Cardinals in five championship games since 2007, including three consecutive from 2012-14. The Cardinals got the last laugh at least, beating the Panthers in the semifinal round in 2015 as part its most recent championship run.
Football produced a thriller in 2015, when Kinder edged Welsh 20-14 in a Class 2A semifinal game en route to the state title. The Greyhounds returned the favor in 2017, beating the Yellow Jackets 44-14 during its run to the championship.
Warren Arceneaux covers high school athletics. Email him at