It’s Been a Long, Long Time
It has been 36 years since a Jesuit football team had a shot at winning a state championship. It’s been that long since Jesuit’s 1978 team went up against St. Augustine in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The so-called “dream game” between the two rivals took place on December 15, 1978, and attracted 42,000 fans. The Purple Knights won the game, 13-7, and the Blue Jays were state runners-up that season, still a terrific accomplishment in its own right, then and now.
And the last time a Jesuit football team won state? You need to go back further, 54 years, all the way to the 1960 Blue Jay football team, which defeated LaGrange, 21-20, to capture the school’s seventh state championship.
The previous six state championships won by Blue Jay football teams were in 1933, 1940, 1941, 1943, 1946, and 1953. In 1959, Jesuit was state runner-up, losing to Istrouma, 21-7.
There are some veteran observers of the prep scene who might think that after 113 years of Blue Jay football represent a vast wasteland. The sport was introduced to Jesuit in 1901 and the school’s archives show the vast majority of teams were competitive. Some, of course, were just OK; others were pretty good; and still others, were great. Jesuit’s football teams started winning championships beginning in 1919. The archives reveal Blue Jay football teams have won a total of 16 city championships, 16 district championships, and those seven state titles.
Interesting when you think about it. The Blue Jays on the state runner-up team in 1978 were born around the time that the Jays on the 1960 team were winning their state championship.
The Blue Jays on the 2014 team that will play for a state championship in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome this Friday were born, give or take a few months, around 1996, a season in which Jesuit’s football team reached the state semifinals, but went no further. And who was coaching the Blue Jays in 1996? None other than Mark Songy, who is leading the 2014 edition of Jesuit football into Friday’s Division 1 championship game.
The 1978 Blue Jays finished 13-2 and were coached by Billy Murphy, who at the time was midway through his eight-year stint as head coach from 1975 – 1983. Murphy is the featured speaker at Thursday night’s pep rally in the Jesuit gym.
In those 36 years since Jesuit played in the Superdome visit, Blue Jay football teams have reached the playoffs 24 times, extending the season anywhere from one to four weeks before being eliminated.
For the 15-year period covering 2000 – 2014, the Jays have been on a playoff roll, extending their season 13 times. The Jays failed to make the playoffs only twice in that period: 2005 and 2006 (those Katrina years).
The road to the championship game for any team fortunate to be on it is not easy to negotiate. Impediments are everywhere and teams usually don’t see the obstacles until they’re hit in the solar plexus. Bad is everywhere. Bad weather (the Superdome excluded), bad karma, bad calls, and bad injuries. Self-inflicted mental lapses result in other bad things — fumbles, interceptions, missed tackles. There are bad decisions at untimely moments — any or all of which can turn the course of a game, even a season.
More than half a century after Pat Screen led the 1960 Jesuit team to a state title, the Blue Jays of 2014 have earned the opportunity to play in the Division I state championship game.
The Jays will be up against a tough and experienced team from John Curtis Christian High School. The Patriots have won four consecutive championships and are going for #5, which would be the school’s 27th state title.
Pumped and ready, the Jays really want to win the big one and bring home an eighth state football title.
The players, too, know it’s been a long, long time.