Tragedy, triumph headlined 2000

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 30, 2000

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / December 30, 2000

LAPLACE – River Parish athletes made an impact on a local, state and national level in 2000. Local teams challenged for state honors in everyseason and area athletes made headlines around the area and around the country.

L’Observateur looks back at 10 of the moments that made 2000 a year to remember.

1. The 2000 River Parishes prep football season got off to a tragic startwith the drowning of East St. John senior defensive linemen Rashad Williamsin August.

The Wildcats were wrapping up a four-day football camp at Nicholls State University and were preparing to return to LaPlace when Williams entered the pool at a Thibodaux hotel. According to friends, Williams got into trouble inthe water and was unconcious when he was pulled out. He slipped into a comaand died the following Thursday.

Teammates, family and friends packed Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church in Vacherie the following Monday for Williams’ funeral services. The team laterhonored Williams by wearing his number (79) on their helmets and placing a large 79 on the field at Joe Keller Stadium.

“It’s a great loss,” East St. John head coach Ronnie Stephens saidafterwards. “This is something that our coaching staff and our team will notbe getting over anytime soon, if we do get over it.”

2. West St. John and St. James went to the “big dance” at the Top 28Tournament in Lafayette and turned it into a River Parishes two-step in mid- March.

The Rams became the first River Parishes school to win a state championship in boys’ basketball when they defeated Coushatta, 84-71, in the Class 2A championship game. St. James quickly became the second whenthe Wildcats defeated St. Bernard, 66-65, for the Class 3A championship thefollowing night.

West St. John’s victory capped a season that saw the Rams go 27-4 andcapture the District 9-2A title. West St. John defeated North Vermilion, 48-46 in the quarterfinals to advance to the Top 28 for the first time.

West St. John trailed McCall by 10 with 5:23 left in the semifinals beforerallying to tie the game at 64 on a drive by Brian Lumar. The Rams nevertrailed in the overtime, outscoring McCall, 14-4, for a 78-68 victory.

West St. John went on another late run in the title game. After Coushattatied the score at 66 with 2:10, the Rams went on an 18-5 run. Jeremy Lumarscored 28 points in the game and was named the tournament’s MVP.

St. James also had to rally in the semifinals. The Wildcats trailed Minden byeight with three minutes to play before taking a 61-60 lead on a layup by Corey Webster with 30 seconds left. Claudell Parker hit two free throws inthe final seconds to seal the 63-60 win.

It was St. Bernard which rallied from an 11-point deficit to take a 65-64 leadwith 23 seconds left in the championship game. But Webster, thetournament’s MVP, drove down the court and found Stevenson Jones on the baseline. Jones drove in and scored with 13 seconds left to give the Wildcatsa 66-65 lead. St. Bernard’s final shot went off the backboard as the buzzersounded.

The win capped a 23-5 season for the Wildcats, one that included the District 9-3A title. The title was the first in four trips to the Top 28 for St. James.”We made it to the big dance and we danced a lot,” Jeremy Lumar said after the Rams’ win.

The Rams and Wildcats were not the only local basketball teams to have successful seasons. Reserve Christian went 40-8 and advanced to its secondstraight Top 28 before losing to Doyle, 96-80, in the Class B semifinals.

Hahnville went 21-5 and won the District 7-5A title before falling to Ponchatoula, 43-38, in overtime in the bi-district round. Lutcher and East St.John also advanced to the playoffs.

In girls’ basketball, East St. John, Destrehan, Hahnville, St. Charles Catholicand Riverside all made postseason appearances. East St. John went to theregionals for a fourth-straight year before losing at Airline, 64-57.

3. For the second time in three years, Riverside made the trek east alongInterstate 10 to the Superdome for the Class 2A state championship football game.

The keyword for the Rebels was consistency. Riverside trailed just threetimes in going 10-0 during the regular season. Included in that run was asecond District 9-2A title in three years.

Riverside did it with a balanced attack. The Rebels passed for over 1,800yards and gained 3,600 yards on the ground. The defense came on late in theseason to hold four straight teams under 200 yards in offense.

Three of those games came in the playoffs as the Rebels defeated Loyola, North Vermilion and St. Thomas Aquinas to reach the Class 2A semifinals.There, Riverside fell behind 21-0 at Farmerville only to rally for a 33-28 victory.

That win sent the Rebels to the Dome against Ouachita Christian. Ryan Bugayreturned an interception 27 yards to give the Rebels an early 7-0 lead.

Ouachita Christian rallied to take a 13-7 lead at halftime. Riverside took a14-13 lead early in the third quarter on a 7-yard run by Brandon Delaneuville.

But Ouachita Christian would score twice in the final 19 minutes to pull out a 28-14 win.

4. River Parishes athletes spent a lot of time with a pen in their hands in2000, signing with colleges across the country.

East St. John had two of the biggest signings in football in February asRoydell Williams signed with Tulane and Thomas Pittman inked with Florida.

Pittman had been playing baseball in the Montreal farm system since graduating from East St. John in 1997.Other local signing on National Signing Day were West St. John’s Brian Lumarwith Georgia Tech, Donriel Louis with LSU and Marlon Jackson with Grambling.

Riverside’s Joseph Trosclair became one of Nicholls State’s prized recruits that evening. Destrehan saw Jeremy Parquet sign with Southern Mississippiand Damien Richard with Louisiana-Monroe.

Lutcher had four players sign – Thomas Ricks with Southern, Kenneth Johnson with Southern Miss and Jemelle Cage and Jerron Wishom with Louisiana Tech. St. James’ Damon Oubre also signed with Southern.Less than a week later, St. james had another signing ceremony as CoreyWebster signed with LSU to play both football and basketball. Bernard Rileybecame the fifth Lutcher player to sign later that week, inking with Jackson State.

Five Wildcats signed with Arkansas-Monticello in March – Cedric Vaughn, Jereal Dillon, Leondro Simon, Alvin Bartholomew and Mayfield Joshua.

East St. John’s Yoshiko taylor signed a track scholarship with Louisiana-Lafayette in April. Damian Ursin signed with Southern a week later to playbaseball. Also that week, East St. John’s Kavonna Reese signed a basketballscholarship with Holmes Community College.

Riverside’s Richie Hymel signed a track scholarship with UNO in May. RustyCrosslin would sign with Pearl River College in June to play baseball.

Hahnville’s Brian Risinger will also play baseball on the next level after signing with Bossier Community College in July. Teammate Kade Rogers signed withNicholls State a few weeks later. East St. John’s Chris Bush joined formerteammate Roydell Williams at Tulane after signing in August.

In the early signing period in November, the East St. John girls’ basketballteam had two more players sign – Kinya Lennix with Tulane and Danielle Stemley with SUNO. Destrehan’s Randy Roth signed with national championLSU to play baseball. And Destrehan’s Joevone Markey inked with UNO to playbasketball. Reserve Christian’s Paul Labiche signed that week to play baseballfor Southeastern Louisiana. And Riverside’s Steve Luminais signed a golfscholarship with Nicholls State.

5. Not only were River Parishes athletes making it to the next level in 2000,they were making an impact once they got there. Lenny Webster GeraldWilliams and both continued their major league baseball careers. And RondellMealey, a Destrehan and LSU alum, was drafted in the seventh round of the NFL Draft by the Green Bay Packers.

On the college level, Destrehan grad Edward Reed was named to The Associated Press’ All-American team. Reed helped Miami (Fla.) receive anumber two ranking in the polls and a berth in the Sugar Bowl against Florida.

There, he will go against another local native, East St. John’s ThomasPittman who signed with the Gators in February. Pittman also continued hisminor league baseball career during the summer.

Kenneth Johnson, a freshman out of Lutcher, caught the winning touchdown pass in Southern Mississippi’s Mobile Alabama Bowl win over TCU. East St.John alum Greg Gathers earned all-ACC honors after helping Georgia Tech to the Peach Bowl against LSU. Gathers’ teammate Kerry Watkins, another EastSt. John grad, caught the winning touchdown pass in the Yellow Jackets’upset of Clemson earlier in the year.

Tulane’s Casey Roussel, a graduate of St. Charles Catholic, was an all-Conference USA pick. East St. John alum Roydell Williams earned all-conference freshman team honors for the Green Wave. And Destrehan gradMike Scifres was named to the AP Division I-AA All-American second team.

6. The town of Lucy saw one of its own get a well-deserved chance whenTerry Robiskie was named the interim coach of the Washington Redskins in early December.

Robiskie got the chance when head coach Norv Turner was fired by owner Daniel Snyder. Robiskie, in his seventh season with the Redskins, had beenserving as the team’s passing game coordinator. He hard earlier served asthe team’s receiver’s coach was an assistant for Oakland from 1982-93, helping the Raiders to the Super Bowl in 1984.

Robiskie starred as the quarterback for Second Ward High School in the early 1970s, helping the school to state championships in 1971 and 72. He went onto star as a running back at LSU, currently standing fifth on the Tigers’ all- time rushing list with 2,517 yards and 29 touchdowns. He played three yearsin the NFL with Oakland and two more with Miami.

Washington lost its first two games with Robiskie to Dallas and Pittsburgh but defeated Arizona, 20-3, in the season finale.

7. Local prep teams had their usual success in football as seven of the eightextended their seasons into the playoffs.

In addition to Riverside, Destrehan, East St. John, Hahnville, Lutcher, St.James and West St. John made it to the second season.Hahnville went 10-0 during the regular season and won its first District 7-5A title since 1995. The Tigers defeated Sulphur, 24-14, in the bi-district roundbefore losing to St. Augustine, 8-6, on a rainy night in the regionals.Quarterback Dawan Landry was named the district offensive MVP while Lou Valdin was selected as its coach of the year.

East St. John advanced to the regionals for the fourth straight year, losingto eventual state runner-up Shaw, 17-7. The Wildcats finished second inDistrict 7-5A with an 8-2 record, losing only to Lutcher and Hahnville. EastSt. John would go on to defeat Kennedy in bi-district, 34-6.Destrehan had its string of four straight district titles snapped but made it to the playoffs for a fifth straight year. First-year head coach StephenRobicheaux led the Wildcats to a 7-3 record. The Wildcats took defendingstate champion Evangel to the wire in the bi-district round before falling, 28- 23.

Lutcher bounced back from a slow start to capture its second straight District 9-3A title. The Bulldogs finished at 8-4 after starting the season at2-3. Chris Johnson gained 337 all-purpose yards and scored four touchdownsas the Bulldogs defeated Lawless, 26-6, in the first round. Parkview endedthe Bulldogs’ season with a 14-0 win the regionals. Lutcher swept thedistrict awards with Johnson as the offensive MVP, James Williams the defensive MVP and Tim Detillier the coach of the year.

St. James also got off to a slow start before finishing strong. The Wildcatslost to Donaldsonville in the district opener but rallied to finish second in District 9-3A. St. James then crushed Green Oaks, 43-18, in bi-district asChris Hymel accounted for four touchdowns. The Wildcats finished theseason at 6-5 with a 20-19 loss at Winnfield in the regionals as Hymel’s two- point conversion pass was tipped away with 10 seconds left.

West St. John overcame the loss of a number of offensive stars to finishsecond in District 9-2A. The Rams went 7-2 during the regular season andadvanced to the bi-district round. There, West St. John defeated Vinton, 36-12, as Devin Herbert scored four touchdowns. Eventual state championOuachita Christian ended the Rams season in the regionals with a 43-6 win.

8. One for the thumb. The Lutcher boys’ swim team completed its drive forits fifth straight Division III state title with a 350-208 victory over E.D.White at the state meet in November. It was definitely a team effort as theBulldogs achieved the victory without the benefit of an individual champion.

But first, second and third places in the relays keyed the win. The Bulldogstook the lead with a victory in the 200-medley relay and never trailed in the meet.

The Lutcher girls also continued their ascent, finishing third behind Parkview and Sacred Heart with 245 points behind two third-place finishes by the relay teams.

Other River Parishes teams also did quite well at the meet. The St. CharlesCatholic boys tied Parkview for third with 197 points. Robbie Paydo led theway with two top five finishes. The Lady Comets were seventh with 90points.

Destrehan ws fifth in the Division I meet with 151.5 points. Chris Dixon tiedfor third in the 100-yard backstroke. The Destrehan girls were seventh with99 points and the Hahnville girls 13th with 47 points.

9. Mission accomplished. That was the headline on the May 6 sports page asthe Riverside Rebels golf team completed its goal of winning the state title.

The Rebels overcame a three-hour rain delay during the first round and wet grounds during the second to win the Class 2A state tournament by 17 strokes at Shenandoah Country Club in Baton Rouge.

The team of Brett Bergeron, Michael Schoen, Steve Luminais, Mike Lozano and Leisl Hasbrouck finished with a team score of 623. Ridgewood wassecond with a 640.

Bergeron captured the individual state title with a one-over par 145. Schoenwas tied for fifth with a 154. Luminais also earned all-state honors with a157.

Riverside had earlier captured both the District 9-2A and regional title.

10. The Riverside golf team was not the only group of golfers to havesuccess on the course this year. Destrehan won its first regional title atWillowdale Country Club in April. The Wildcats’ Ryan Dishongh finished secondin the individual competition. Hahnville also advanced to the state tournamentwith a second-place finish at the regional. Hahnville was 14 and Destrehan15th at the state tournament.

In addition to his state championship in high school, Brett Bergeron advanced to the U.S. Junior Amateur in Oregon after winning the 36-hole qualifyingtournament in Lafayette. Bergeron also placed second at the MetropolitanAmateur Championships at Eastover Country Club. He was second in his agegroup and third overall at the Gulf States PGA Junior Tour Championships held at Belle Terre Country Club in July. Bergeron lated added the RiverlandsClub championship to his collection.

Steve Luminais placed third at the Louisiana Independent Insurance Agents tournament in June and advanced to the national tournament in Alpharetta, Ga., in August. Luminais also won his age group and placed second at the GulfStates PGA Junior Tour Championships held at Belle Terre in July. He signed agolf scholarship with Nicholls State in November.

LaPlace’s Steve Lee, a freshman at Copiah-Lincoln Junior College, finished third at the Mississippi State Championships and advanced to the Division III College National Championships. He later earned honorable mention All-American honors after a 16th-place finish there.

LaPlace’s Phillip Kelly won both the Junior Club championship and points race at Belle Terre this summer. Kelly also captured the City Championships atBayou Oaks in New Orleans.

Return To Sports Stories

Copyright © #Thisyear# Wick Communications, Inc.Best viewed with 4.0 or higher