KICKING OFF IN STYLE
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 26, 2008
By RYAN ARENA
Football fanatics: your wait is just about over.
The prep season in the River Parishes officially kicks off tomorrow night at East St. John, where the first two games of the Ed Reed River Parishes Jamboree is set to begin.
It will be a St. John Parish showdown as the Wildcats host West St. John at 6:30, followed soon after by a clash between Riverside and St. Charles.
The action will move to Hahnville on Friday night, where the Tigers will face St. James at 6:30, followed by a Destrehan/Lutcher matchup.
Jamborees are widely considered by coaches to be the final dress rehearsal for the regular season – they are, after all, exhibition games.
But there should be more than enough competitive juices flowing to keep fans entertained, nonetheless. All eight River Parish teams — each a playoff qualifier from a year ago — are being showcased, and many of these games provide for the only matchup for natural rivals to face one another in.
“They always give us a good game,” says East St. John Coach Larry Dauterive “These kids all know one another. They’ve been talking smack since the beginning of summer. It’s a good, clean rivalry.”
Across the field from Dauterive will be West St. John Coach Robert Valdez, participating in his first Ed Reed Jamboree since taking over as Rams coach.
The Rams come off of a scrimmage with Lutcher last Thursday, and will open up against St. James next week. Needless to say, Valdez’s Rams are experiencing a trial by fire to begin the season.
“It can be rough on you, especially early,” says Valdez. “But we’ve got the chance to go against some of the better programs in the state. You won’t get better unless you play the best.”
He knows a thing or two about his opponents – Valdez was an assistant under Dauterive before beginning his head-coaching career at McKinley in 2007.
“He’s got an advantage there. He knows all our secrets,” Dauterive said with a chuckle.
Valdez says he’s just soaking up the experience so far.
“It’s really an honor. At the point I’m at in my career, to be across the field from some of the legends in this state, a Tim Detillier, Larry Dauterive, or Rick Gaille…it’s always a challenge to try and match wits with them.”
Meanwhile, while it may seem odd to not see rivals Riverside and St. Charles battling in the regular season, the jamboree nonetheless gives fans a chance to see those teams go at it.
St. Charles Coach Frank Monica acknowledged the rivalry aspect of the game for his players, but said that his team’s biggest concern needs to be cleaning up its play after what he deemed a ‘sloppy’ scrimmage offensively against St. Michael’s on Thursday.
“We have to take care of our own business, regardless of the name on the jerseys across from us,” he said.
St. Charles won the jamboree games against the Rebels a year ago, buoyed by Jonathan Cancienne’s kick off return for a touchdown and Chris Ilski’s game winning field goal. Nonetheless, Riverside controlled much of that game, and Monica says a repeat performance by his team wouldn’t satisfy him.
“We were lethargic. We didn’t show enough emotion,” Monica said. “We’re not a big team, so we have to play all out or we give ourselves no chance to win.
“(Riverside) played lights out against us last year. They controlled the game. We were lucky to get a couple of big special teams plays against them.”
Those snaps on special teams are the biggest concern for Riverside Coach Tim Taffi.
“It’s the first time out special teams units get to go out and compete in a game time situation. I admit, there’s a little anxiety there on my part. We’ll get to see how they hold up.”
Coming off of a tough scrimmage matchup against Class 1A champion South Plaquemine on Thursday, Taffi’s Rebels are anxious to return to the field against their old rivals.
“We’re looking forward to (the jamboree),” Taffi said. “All the teams here will be on display. It’ll be a great showcase for the fans.”
Friday’s games promise to be entertaining as well. St. James and Hahnville each flexed their defensive muscle a year ago to the tune of a 7-to-7 tie. Each team has lost a number of veterans on each side of the ball, and it will be interesting to see who seems to be adjusting faster.
In the nightcap, Lutcher will look to avenge a 23-0 loss to Destrehan in the ’07 jamboree. The Bulldogs, a strong contender once again in Class 3A, will face a Wildcats team short on starting experience, but one preparing to defend its Class 5A state championship.
Presale tickets for Thursday night can be purchased at ESJ, SCC, RA or WSJ for $5. Tickets will be $7 at the gate.
Tickets for Friday night are available at HHS, SJH, DHS and LHS for $6.