When David Charles drove down the tree-lined road of the St. James campus Thursday afternoon, he couldn’t help but think of 1979.
The Wildcats were playing Wossman for the Class 3A state championship. The game wound up 8-8 after regulation.
A new overtime rule would decide the outcome. Wossman won the toss and elected to get the ball first. A stout Wildcat defense stopped Wossman on four downs on the possession that began at the St. James 20-yard line.
Now, it was the Wildcats’ turn.
The big moment came on third down.
“We called the play. When I ran off-tackle, a 37 (play call), Rydell (Malancon) and Blaine Bourgeois opened up a hole big enough to run a truck through it. When I crossed the goal line, I just put my hands up. I can’t even remember what I did with the football,” said Charles, laughing as he recalled the moment the Wildcats won the state championship 14-8.
For Charles and his teammates, the game has taken on added significance. The fourth of St. James’ four state championships in school history; it was the only title for Wildcats on their home field.
St. James won state titles in 1959 and 1960 – both at Oberlin – and again in 1966 at Kentwood. Shortly after the Wildcats won the 1979 championship, the Superdome Classic was created. The neutral site format means no more state titles will be won on a school’s home field.
Even if the state championship would revert back to the old format, the 1979 state championship will forever be remembered as the only one played on that field in St. James. That’s makes it hallowed grounds for people like Charles and a legion of former St. James players, alumni, coaches and fans.
Again, Charles thought back to 1979.
“It was awesome. With the fan base we had, it was incredible. When I crossed the goal line, it looked like it erupted like a volcano. They had people on the field. The stadium was practically empty. People were on the goal post, shaking the goal post – it was something I just couldn’t imagine,” Charles recalled.
Charles, along with several other former players and coaches, were on hand for the final practice on the football field of the current St. James campus since the Wildcats will be moving to their new campus in Vacherie for the next school year.
“The guys that paid the price; I’m just so excited to see some of the former players and coaches come through here today,” said Robert Valdez, the current St. James coach.
Also on hand to watch one last practice in St. James was Danny Folse. Folse, along with son Darryl, visited the campus on Thursday to watch Darryl’s son, Zachary – a current Wildcat player – take part in the practice.
“I just wanted to come,” Danny Folse said. “Heck, I know I wouldn’t be coming here anymore.”
Danny, like his son, Darryl, and grandson, Zachary, was a Wildcat football player.
Like Charles, Danny Folse was in a mood to remember. The day he recalled was from his senior year in 1958. Instead of a state championship game, it was a semifinal playoff contest against Greensburg.
Just as in 1979, regulation ended in a tie. Unlike 1979, there was no overtime provision.
“I remember the very first play of the game, Reuben Bodin was the quarterback and he threw a long pass to Allen Rome and he dropped the ball and nobody was around and the game ended in a 7-7 tie. We could of ended up winning the darn game,” Folse remembered.
Instead, Greensburg advanced in the playoffs by virtue of topping St. James 14-7 in first downs.
Wildcats of a more recent vintage returned to St. James as well on Thursday.
Also on campus was Lowell Narcisse, currently a quarterback at LSU.
“It’s the last practice here. I was fortunate enough to play in this stadium my freshman year. My freshman year, we had some memorable moments. We ended breaking the (losing) streak of 0-25 and then we won a playoff game to move on the semifinals of the playoffs. I just wanted to make sure that I was able to enjoy this moment before they go on and knock it down,” said Narcisse.
“They” represent encroaching industry that led to the new school campus. Although the 2018-19 school year will be the first at the new site, in a typical football-crazed community, the stadium was built first – in 2014.
Although Thursday was a day to reminisce, time moves on. For the current Wildcats it was a routine, through final, day of practice at the old field
“Now these guys get to write their own chapter and add to the book,” Valdez said. “The big thing is we want to make sure they never forget about the history, tradition and people that paved the way for us to be here today. This program has a reputation of excellence and we want to make sure we uphold that and that the kids understand what is expect of them on and off the field.”