By Kyle Huber
Friday nights in the fall, no matter in what state, belong to high school football. Even movies and TV shows about high school football have donned the name “Friday Night Lights.”
From state to state, young athletes suit up and play for school, family, and community, against district foes and long-time rivals.
This was the case Oct. 10 at Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans, when the Jesuit Blue Jays and Holy Cross Tigers battled for the 95th time in the state’s longest continuous rivalry and the sixth longest in the United States.
The first game was played in 1922, which Jesuit won 52-0. The two teams have played every year since, including twice in 1963, once in the regular season and again for the state championship, which Holy Cross won.
Even during the 2005 season, only a couple of months after Hurricane Katrina severely damaged both schools’ campuses, the series continued unbroken.
Since 2008, Jesuit and Holy Cross have participated in “The Great American Rivalry Series,” which selects the greatest rivalries throughout the country and is put on by the Marine Corps.
“The Series shines the spotlight on top high school football rivalries across the nation, where long-standing traditions are valued, expectations are sky high, and followers are committed,” said the series’ website.
Although he is in his first season as the Holy Cross head coach, Eric Rebaudo understands the reputation of the rivalry.
“It’s quite a spectacle,” Rebaudo said. We know what we’re in for, it’s always a battle, it doesn’t matter the records.”
His counterpart, Mark Songy, who is also in the first year of his second stint as the head coach of the Blue Jays, also acknowledges the importance of the rivalry.
“It’s gotten to be so big,” Songy said, “and we are excited to play in it. It’s important to our kids, it’s important to our community, and our alums. I know it’s important to Holy Cross, and they’ll come to play real hard, and we’ll come do the same thing. It’s going to be a wonderful event for all the fans and the players alike.”
However, it seems Songy has done a great job making sure his players don’t get caught up in all of the hoopla and stay focused on the game.
“It’s just another game for us, and we are going to play it like it’s just another game,” said Trey LaForge, Jesuit’s starting quarterback.
Don’t put too much stock in LaForge’s comment. There’s a lot going on and a lot up for grabs to be “just another game,” including year-long bragging rights, district standings, a Great American Rivalry Series Champions trophy, and a golden football to be housed at the winning team’s school for the year.
Other awards given at the game are: the game’s Most Valuable Player, a recognition of the top student-athlete from each school, and two alumni donned “Legends of the Game” from each school.
This year’s “Legends of the Games” were Frank Massa, a Jesuit graduate of 1954, and Billy Truax, a Holy Cross graduate of 1960.
While the games are usually hard-fought and close, this year’s game was all Blue Jays as they took back the trophies and bragging rights, clipping the Tigers 56-14.
LaForge, earned most valuable player by completing 14 of 18 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns and adding a 5-yard rushing touchdown.
The victory gives the Jays a 55-38-1 hold on the series’ overall record.
Even though there was rain pregame and the game was not close, in true New Orleans fashion, the tradition held strong.
Surrounded by the City Park oak trees and amongst family, friends, and foes, the crowd of approximately 15,000 took part in the festivities to continue the state’s oldest high school football rivalry.
No matter the conditions, records, score, or weather, you can bet that the Jesuit and Holy Cross rivalry will be “under the lights” for many years to come.