Bragging rights on the line in 2 parishes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 25, 2000

LEONARD GRAY and DANIEL TYLER GOODEN / L’Observateur / October 25, 2000

It’s a week in the River Parishes that many football fans eagerly await.

It’s time to decide the champions of St. Charles and St. James parishes.The two parishes’ east and west bank public schools square off Friday, and each team is in the hunt for district honors.

The rivalry between the Hahnville and Destrehan high school football teams date back more than half a century.

For observers outside St. Charles Parish it may seem to be simply a battlefor district honors, but it means much more to local residents where fathers and grandfathers are looking for bragging rights for the coming year.

Along the way, there have been a few notable points. Take 1949, forexample.

That year both teams were powerhouses, though in different classifications.

Back then Destrehan was taking aim at the Class A title, which they won with a 14-6 victory over DeQuincy in Destrehan.

There, quarterback Barry Bleakley led his squad to a close-fought game which rocked the town.

The previous week, though, Hahnville thundered to the Class B crown over Tallulah in a 19-7 game played at Lutcher High School stadium.

That put an interesting twist in the Destrehan-Hahnville rivalry, since Hahnville earlier in the season rolled over Destrehan with a score of 37-0.

Ever since, many Tiger fans have trumpeted that Hahnville by rights “unofficially” won the Class B and Class A titles.

Clyde A. “Rock” Gisclair, a quarterback for that Tiger team, recalled,”Destrehan was always good. It was a real rivalry, but it was fun.”What continues to make it interesting, he said, is that many families have relations on both sides, which means a Hahnville supporter may have a nephew playing at Destrehan, and the same the other way.

“It was always a good, close game,” Gisclair said. However, 1949 wasn’t oneof those years, since Hahnville powered nearly 400 points over their competition that season under the athletic prowess of first-string quarterback Larry Troxler.

Gisclair also claimed that while Destrehan “always had a good following, Hahnville’s fans, win or lose, always had a great following.”By 1969, with 20 years having passed, high school football was experiencing a renewal of interest. Baseball, in fact, was the leading sport through mostof the 1950s.

Charles “Chipper” Simon, now principal at Destrehan High, was a player in 1969. He later became head football coach prior to his present job.In the River Parishes Jamboree in 1969 Hahnville and Destrehan battled to a scoreless tie. The very next week the teams opened the regular season – andagain the result was a scoreless tie, even after two overtime quarters.

“In the old days, before the bridge, hardly anyone knew anyone on the other side of the river,” Simon commented.

He recalled with a smile, though, that when he went on to Northeast Louisiana University he went with two teammates from Destrehan – and four Hahnville players. “They were a great bunch of guys,” he said.The football quality has remained high, as Hahnville won state titles in 1968 (14-7 over Central Lafourche), 1972 (26-26 against Denham Springs, 16-13 in first downs), 1992 (37-22 over Broadmoor) and 1994 (36-28 over Ouachita). Destrehan won in 1973 (21-0 over Lutcher).Hahnville also made appearances in the 1995 game, losing to Neville, 35-7.

Destrehan likewise played in the 1993 title game, losing to West Monroe 28- 21).

While as a coach, Simon added, he always tried to downplay the rivalry and play it as just another game.

“The community built it up,” he said. “It’s natural – the excitement’s going tobuild up. By Friday it’ll be the talk of the school.”What’s important, though, is that the games have been noteworthy as being “hard-fought, but clean,” Simon noted.

The oldest footballs fans in St. James Parish remember the old rivalrybetween St. James High School and Lutcher High School. “To talk about their rivalry, you have to go back to the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s,” said Norman Buckner, former head coach and principal at Lutcher High School.

Back in those days the classification system was different.

“There were large schools, and small schools,” said Buckner. St. James Highwas considered a smaller school powerhouse back then. “Harold Waguespackwas a gentleman and a coach. We played them a number of times, winning asmany times as they won,” said Buckner.

Buckner remembers those days as the beginning of high school athletics, as far as southern Louisiana football was concerned.

The school classification system finally came in the mid-50s, and that was the end of St. James High vs. Lutcher High for a while. Lutcher was classifiedas a large school, and it wasn’t until the late 60s that the two began in at each other. Being a single parish divided by the river, “the stage was alwaysset for rivalry,” said Buckner.

Buckner coached for Lutcher from 1938-1940, 1946-1950, and 1953-58.

Today, both teams seem to be continuing and increasing that old school rivalry. In the last seven years the district championship has come down tothe Lutcher High School Bulldogs and the St. James High Wildcats.”Today they both have highly respectable coaches, Tim Detillier and Rick Gaille,” said Buckner. As for both schools, he said, “I’ve always thought wellof their supporters and their conduct.”

Return To News Stories