L’Observateur River Parishes Team of the Week

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 26, 2005

Memories propel Destrehan’s Eugene to dominating performance

By Billy Gomila

Contributing Writer

DESTREHAN – Anger has always been an important part of competition. No matter the sport, there are always those competitors who need that extra something to gain an edge on their competition. Many times, it just takes a little getting mad. It might be Randy Johnson on the mound, Ron Artest on the hardwood or Ray Lewis on the gridiron but one thing that links them all is a healthy contempt for their opponents, even if it just lasts for a moment.

Last week Destrehan High’s star quarterback/defensive back Jai Eugene used just that to scorch the Terrebonne Tigers for 286 yards of total offense and four touchdowns as the Wildcats picked up a 35-13 victory.

The 5-10, 185-pound senior passed for 225 yards and three touchdowns with another 61 yards and a score on the ground, and for that performance he earns the L’Observateur’s Player of the Week honor.

The spark that ignited Eugene? Remembering a poor performance against the Tigers last year.

“Last time I had a bad game and they played us close,” he said. “But this year it’s just a brand new me.”

The River Parishes have long been home to some of the nation’s best football talent. From All-American quarterback Ryan Perriloux of East St. John last season, to former St. James and LSU standout Corey Webster, now a starter for the New York Giants, the area has long been a haven for some of America’s top prospects. Destrehan is no stranger to top players either, with Edward Reed, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year with the Baltimore Ravens a former Wildcat standout.

In the tradition of Perriloux last season, Eugene will be this year’s marquee recruit from the area. He has scholarship offers from across the country, but says that his top six choices are currently, in no particular order, LSU, Miami, Florida, Tennessee, Southern Cal and Michigan.

“Everybody pretty much is talking cornerback for me, some receiver,” Eugene said, adding that he doesn’t have any favorite choice right now.

Eugene plays on defense in specific situations for Destrehan now, but his size and 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash make him an ideal corner prospect. He also thinks playing quarterback will help with the transition.

“I just have more of an understanding of the game,” he said. “I’ve learned how a receiver thinks, how to read defenses, and how to read offenses. It just helps with my overall knowledge of the game.”

As Hurricane Katrina neared the state the Eugenes evacuated to Houston, where Jai was out of touch with both his coach and his bevy of college suitors. He briefly considered enrolling in a school in Houston until Destrehan head coach Stephen Robichaux assured him that school and football would resume. That didn’t stop the frantic calls from college coaches though.

“It took about four or five days for them to find me,” Eugene said with a laugh. “My cellphone didn’t have any service, so that was big.”

Last week two of Eugene’s scores were thrown to Wildcat junior Edwin Reed, Edward’s younger brother, expected to be another top recruit next season. Eugene said the elder Reed is a close family friend who has done a little behalf of his alma mater, the University of Miami, but has encouraged him to make the decision that he feels is best.

“I don’t have any of my official visits planned yet,” he said. “I definitely won’t be taking one to LSU, but just because I’ll be going there a lot for games and stuff like that.”