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Hemelt: Football Fridays pack in fun

The 2017 high school football regular season ended Friday, but we all know the real fireworks begin in the playoffs.

This season also marked my return to the sidelines, as this fall was the first time in more than a decade that I attended a game each Friday, serving as a reporter and photographer for L’OBSERVATEUR’s sports coverage.

I was able to see seven of our eight River Parishes high school teams in person and came away impressed.

It’s been a great ten weeks so far, and I certainly hope the next month of games brings more victories and one or two state championship game experiences.

As a diehard sports fan, my field level view of the football experience from the sidelines of West St. John, East St. John, St. Charles Catholic and Riverside can’t be topped.

My high school experience included a year at Jesuit in New Orleans and three at St. Paul’s in Covington, so although I’m intimately familiar with Louisiana high school football, I carry none of the allegiances that might separate one St. John the Baptist Parish fan from another.

I live in Reserve, work in LaPlace and root for St. John. Thankfully, no game in 2017 forced me to pick sides.

The experiences at each stop have been great.

My season started in Week 1 with a trip to Edgard for the West St. John/St. James rivalry extravaganza. You’ve got to love a high school season that starts its year with a Super Bowl.

The passion was amazing. My half-mile walk down Louisiana 3127 to the Rams’ stadium was not awesome, but silly me for not realizing parking spots would fill quickly and those who only arrived 15 minutes early might be caught in the back of the line.

It was a mistake that was not repeated.

My biggest take away from West St. John (which certainly enjoyed the most exciting season in the River Parishes) is that the pregame music is the best. I was able to see two games in person and am looking forward to more in the playoffs.

My two games at Riverside were awesome. The Reserve school’s homecoming fireworks were a great start for an October visit. The small sidelines made for some interesting walks up and down the field while committed players and intense coaches worked at their in-game adjustments.

Three visits to St. Charles Catholic proved extremely interesting. My parking choice was poor in Week 2, as the P.A. announcer had to page me over the loudspeaker for illegal parking. Thank you to the St. John Sheriff’s Office deputy who allowed me to move without a ticket. I also witnessed first responders, staff and fans respond in unison with action and prayer while tending to a fan who collapsed in the stands. A life was maintained; the game proved secondary.

Three visits to East St. John High home games were wonderful in their growth. My first visit during a Week 3 loss to McDonogh No. 35 seemed underwhelming, but simply proved an appetizer for what became a resurgent season for team and fans.

The East St. John Alumni Association eventually formed, brought untold thousands to the school’s homecoming game and raised approximately $20,000 in the process that today supports school athletics and college academic scholarships.

Now, that’s real success, and it’s only getting started.

Stephen Hemelt is publisher and editor of L’OBSERVATEUR. He can be reached at 985-652-9545 or stephen.hemelt@lobservateur.com.