Historic SCC, Riverside game years in the making

Published 12:04 am Wednesday, November 30, 2016

RESERVE — Throughout Friday night’s semifinal football game between Riverside Academy and Catholic of New Iberia, Rebels’ public address announcer Neil Veron kept the crowd updated on other action around the state.

In particular interest to the home crowd was the score of the St. Charles Catholic game in Crowley.

Comets coach Frank Monica said his players have outperformed his and other coaches’ expectations in advancing to the state title game.

Comets coach Frank Monica said his players have outperformed his and other coaches’ expectations in advancing to the state title game.

Every time Veron announced that the Comets were ahead, Riverside’s crowd cheered. When he announced the final — St. Charles 21, Notre Dame 10 — it roared.

St. John the Baptist Parish is getting a gridiron wish come true with a rematch between the St. Charles Catholic Comets and Riverside Academy Rebels for the Division III select schools state championship. The teams will meet at 1:30 p.m. Friday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

That has fans on both sides going a little wild with good-natured trash-talking and perhaps some friendly wagering.

Former Rebels free safety Brian Bertrand, a 1992 graduate who is married to a St. Charles Catholic grad, started his fun over the weekend.

“I pulled out every piece of Riverside clothing I could find,” said Bertrand, who is the Unit Commander of the St. John Parish Young Marines.

“There’s so much pride in our school, to know that your team gets to go back to the Dome and to play for the championship against St. Charles, it’s just the fairy-tale ending.”

Brock Anderson, a 1996 graduate of St. Charles, said he’s already engaged in some banter with his Riverside friends in the area.

“At lunch, at the gym there was some back and forth,” said Anderson, a financial planner in LaPlace.

“It’s a great rivalry because everybody knows everybody. I think it’s awesome. I’ve always said the River Parishes has some of the best athletes in the area. I think this shows just how much talent there is here.”

St. John the Baptist Parish President Natalie Robottom said Friday’s game is a source of pride for the area.

“High school football is sacred in our small parish, and the fact that two of our four high school teams are playing each other for the state championship is historic,” Robottom said. “With a family of SCC alumni, I am an honorary Comet, but (I) have many neighbors and close friends who are long-time Riverside fans.  As parish president, I congratulate both teams on their exceptional seasons and wish them the best of luck. On a personal note, I say ‘go Comets — fly high and shine bright this Friday.”

This will be the 20th meeting of the cross-town rivals, but the first with a football state title on the line.

They have played in regular season games, jamboree games and, last year, in a semifinal game. Riverside leads the series 12-7.

The schools’ softball teams met for a championship in 1998, with the Comets taking the win.

The baseball teams met in a semifinal for the first time earlier this year. The Comets won that one too, but lost the championship game.

While it is rather unique to have two teams from one parish compete against one another for a title, it is not a first for St. John Parish. Before the public and private schools split, Riverside and West St. John met for the Class 2A title in 1998.

Riverside has won the last three meetings against St. Charles, including this year’s regular season contest, 35-14.

That was the same score of last year’s semifinal game, which sent the Rebels to their first final since 2000. They were defeated by Notre Dame of Crowley, 13-3, giving the school its fourth LHSAA runner-up trophy.

Riverside has never won a Louisiana High School Athletic Association football title but won eight championships (1972, 1973, 1975, 1980, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986) in the Louisiana Independent Schools Association.

St. Charles Catholic has one LHSAA football title from 2011. The Comets were runners-up to John Curtis in 2005 and 2006.

This meeting is somewhat improbable.

Riverside was last year’s state runner-up and returned a slew of veterans. St. Charles, on the other hand, lost 20 of 22 starters from last year.

“When we sat down and looked at our schedule and counted out how many wins we thought we’d have, I think we came up with four,” Comets coach Frank Monica said.

“Then, after the first couple of practices, I think we got down to three.”

Instead, the Comets went 8-2 and earned the No. 3 seed in the Division III bracket.

Monica attributes the team’s overachieving to the players’ hard work and determination.

“They’re a good group of kids,” he said. “One thing about this group, we don’t have to worry about them blowing up a commode or anything.”

Riverside, meanwhile, is looking to finish the mission from last year.

“I’m just so happy for these kids,” Rebels coach Bill Stubbs said.

“They’ve been working for this, really, since last December, from the minute they walked off that field. It was a hard loss. There were a lot of hurt feelings.”