Lyons: Flooding makes Bulldogs, Wildcats put rivalry aside

Published 12:01 am Saturday, August 20, 2016

Wildcats and Bulldogs aren’t supposed to get along — at least, not around these parts.

The St. James Wildcats and the Lutcher Bulldogs are sworn enemies of one another, with decades of history fueling a fierce rivalry between the two schools on opposite sides of the Mississippi River.

They’ve fought on football fields, baseball fields, basketball courts and tracks for years, sometimes not so nicely.

That rivalry came to a head last December when the two football teams met in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to vie for the Class 3A state championship.

Pretty much all of St. James Parish came to watch and cheer, creating a sea of black and gold on one side, purple and gold on the other.

But for the last week, that rivalry has been completely forgotten, washed away by Mother Nature. And all those colors have been blended together in rising waters.

The historic rainstorm that sat over Louisiana last week dumped nearly seven trillion gallons of water on the areas to our west, destroying more than 40,000 homes, flooding schools and displacing students.

Although St. James and St. John the Baptist parishes were spared in the initial onslaught, this week residents on the East Bank began fighting backwater flooding from the overflow. Schools were closed, streets began to flood, homes were threatened.

And folks answered the call to help.

Friends and families banded together. Neighbor helped neighbor.

Lutcher coach Dwain Jenkins was all over the parish this week helping friends, neighbors, his players and coaches with all thoughts of football pushed way aside.

By Tuesday night, Jenkins’ own home was being threatened.

“I’m looking out on my ocean front property,” he joked.

His house was sandbagged bright and early Wednesday morning.

St. James football coach Robert Valdez also lives on the East Bank of St. James, but his home near the river wasn’t in imminent danger. There was no threat to the Wildcats players on the West Bank either.

But Monday morning Valdez called the bus drivers who regularly pick up his players and told them to make a run.

“I told them to pick up anybody they could,” Valdez said. “We had players, cheerleaders, everybody.”

They all headed across Veterans Memorial Bridge to Lutcher, Paulina, Grand Point and Gramercy, to join the Bulldogs and their fans.

Elbow to elbow they filled sandbags and stacked them at Lutcher Elementary School, at businesses and at homes, some of them with purple and gold Bulldog décor.

That didn’t matter.

We’ve seen it happening all across the areas that have been devastated by floods. Football and baseball teams have exchanged one set of gloves for another to help friends, family and strangers clean out their destroyed houses.

My own sister in Baton Rouge had a bunch of football players come to her house to remove soggy mattresses and the ruins of my grandparents’ antique dining room table

The teams who made out OK, meanwhile, were busy cooking meals, feeding those left homeless and helping to cut the sheetrock out of many, many homes.

Just four years ago this month, some of those same people were doing all these things for residents in St. John after Hurricane Isaac devastated so many homes, businesses and schools here.

Folks put aside their rivalries then too.

“I tell people all the time, we can learn a lot from football players,” Valdez said. “They put aside their differences all the time. We’re all one in times like this.”

Lori Lyons is the Sports Editor at L’OBSERVATEUR. She can be reached at or 985-652-9945.