Jesuit played for its first championship in 1931
Eighty-three years ago, Jesuit became the first non-public school to compete for a state football championship.
My, how times have changed since 1931.
That doesn’t happen anymore. Private and parochial schools have been given the moniker “Select” by the LHSAA’s public school principals, in keeping with their “everyone-deserves-a-trophy” attitude.
Jesuit was aiming to win its eighth title when it was set to meet John Curtis in the “Select” Division I finals in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome Dec. 5 at 8:30 p.m.
Hopefully, a pending proposal to rejoin public and non-public schools in classes 5A and 4A passes at the annual convention in January, although I don’t have enough faith in principals to believe they will possibly vote to have to play a non-public school for a championship.
The LHSAA was founded in 1920 as a public school organization. Non-public schools like Jesuit were persona non grata for the first nine years of the association.
But there was a change of heart in 1929, and Jesuit was one of the first Catholic schools to join. So did Holy Cross and St. Aloysius, the city’s other two Catholic schools that fielded football teams.
Since that fateful day, Jesuit has played for a state title 11 times and won the big game seven times.
Jesuit’s 1931 team, led by quarterback George Joint and sophomore whirling dervish back Eddie Toribio, played for its first state championship as a Class A school (the highest class at the time).
Coached by “Doc” Erskine, the Blue Jays defeated Lake Charles, 19-0, for the south Louisiana title, then lost to two-time champ Byrd, 14-7.
Jesuit made the playoffs for the first time a year earlier when it gained entry to the post-season despite losing the city prep league title to archrival Warren Easton, 18-13. It seems that Easton’s coach Harry Gamble Jr. played an overaged boy named Kid Samboli.
The player had three birth dates on his entrant’s application, but there was no birth record at City Hall. Jesuit people found out he was a Catholic and ferreted through baptismal records until they found Samboli’s name and age.
The Blue Jays lost to Lake Charles, 21-6.
The first of seven state championships came in 1933 when Toribio was a senior, a 21-year-old senior at that. But he was eligible at age 20, the age limit at that time, until a few days before the championship game.
That Jesuit team was one of the school’s best. It posted a 13-0 record and allowed just six points in a 7-6 prep league win over Fortier. No other school scored a point (ironically, no other opponent scored against Fortier either).
Toribio and Clay Calhoun tallied 10 touchdowns apiece to lead the offense, but it was the defense that saved the day in the championship game against Byrd. With Toribio on the sideline, the Blue Jays stopped Byrd cold. And the offense did enough to be declared champion after a 0-0 finish by penetrating the Yellowjackets’ 20-yard line twice.
Four in the ’40s
The years of World War II and beyond made the 1940s the great decade of prep football in New Orleans. Jesuit won its second through fifth championships in 1940, 1941, 1943 and 1946.
Holy Cross won its first of two titles in 1945, Warren Easton won its last to date as the All-American team of 1942, and Fortier capped off a seventh state championship for city schools in 1948.
The 1940 team is said to have been Jesuit’s greatest.
Prior to the start of the season, head coach G. Gernon Brown brought in former Tulane quarterback Lester Lautenschlaeger, Grantland Rice All-American honorable mention in 1925, to work on a new offense that featured Brown’s super backfield of O.J. Key, Al Widmer, Leonard Finley and Tony Dibartolo.
Lautenschlaeger introduced Brown to the single-wing, an offense the Jays would use successfully with some modifications for the next 30 years. It featured such great tailbacks as Ray Coates, John and Richie Petitbon, Mickey Lanasa, Pat Screen and Jack Laborde.
It has been 36 years since the Blue Jays last played for a state championship. And no one would have given a plugged nickel for their chances at the start of the season when Mark Songy stepped in to replace Wayde Keiser, who abruptly retired in July as the head coach.
But Songy, who had coached the team from 1992-96, did what was best for the squad. He did nothing. He let the coordinators do their thing and enjoyed the ride.
He did what head coaches do best. He oversaw and didn’t try to manage. And that philosophy worked. Jesuit won 11 of 13 games, which culminated last week with a 28-14 victory over 2012 and 2013 state champion Archbishop Rummel, to get the Jays in position to accomplish a feat that became second nature between 1940-60, but has eluded them ever since.
Kudos go to ...
➤ Mount Carmel’s Katie Kampen was selected an Under Armor Girls High School All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
➤ De La Salle’s 2014 Sports Hall of Fame inductees: Charles Reinerth (’56), Ed Middlebronn (’63), John Foto (’72), Shane Jeanfreau (’90), Matt Millet (’94), Dr. Warren Caire, the wrestling moderator (1965-86), and retired football and track coach Don Wattigny.
➤ Cabrini’s basketball team claimed the Dominican High School Thanksgiving Basketball Tournament championship by defeating 2013 Class 5A runner-up Destrehan, 52-51, in the finals on Nov. 26. Coach Nancy Walsh’s Crescents earlier had defeated Hahnville, 55-40; Dominican, 47-33, and the reigning Class 5A champion, Mount Carmel, 50-39, to run their record to 5-0.
Local Catholic schools in championship games
1931 – Byrd 14, Jesuit 7
1933 – Jesuit 0, Byrd 0 (*)
1934 – Byrd 14, Holy Cross 0
1935 – Byrd 19, Jesuit 0
1940 – Jesuit 26, Lake Charles 6
1941 – Jesuit 30, Ouachita 7
1943 – Jesuit 25, Byrd 7
1945 – Holy Cross 31, Fair Park 13
1946 – Jesuit 48, Jennings 14
1949 – Byrd 34, Holy Cross 13
1952 – Fair Park 20, St. Aloysius 0
1953 – Jesuit 7, Byrd 6
1955 – Holy Name 34, Delhi 7
1960 – Jesuit 21, LaGrange 20
1961 – Istrouma 20, De La Salle 7
1963 – Holy Cross 14, Jesuit 6
1967 – Airline 20, Holy Cross 6
1971 – Brother Martin 23, St. Augustine 0
1975 – St. Augustine 35, Covington 13
1978 – St. Augustine 13, Jesuit 7
1979 – St. Augustine 16, New Iberia 7
1987 – Abp. Shaw 14, Covington 6
1988 – Ruston 28, Abp. Shaw 14
1989 – Ouachita 35, Brother Martin 7
1997 – West Monroe 22, Abp. Shaw 19
2000 – West Monroe 35, Abp. Shaw 7
2005 – John Curtis 31, St. Charles Catholic 6
2006 – John Curtis 41, St. Charles Catholic 7
2006 – Bastrop 28, Shaw 14
2007 – Bastrop 38, Shaw 14
2008 – Belle Chasse 28, Shaw 7
2011 – St. Charles Catholic 9, Amite 8
2012 – Abp. Rummel 35, Barbe 14
2013 – Abp. Rummel 23, Byrd 22
2013 – Calvary Baptist 62, Archbishop Hannan 7
Record: 18-17(*) – Jesuit won on penetrations, 2-0