Top 10 Picks
Wow, 2015 was an action-packed year in the world of local sports – one of the busier 12-month stretches that we’ve had in recent memory.
Over the past year, we’ve seen miraculous stories of triumph and healing, coaching changes and state championships.
We saw professional dreams come true for some, and reality TV show hopes come to light for others.
It wasn’t easy to narrow down, but below are the Top 10 sports stories in the Houma-Thibodaux area for the 2015 calendar year.
Reminisce with us what’s been an amazing sports year.
We will surely miss all of the major players in the past year.
No. 1: Local freshman severely injured in practice, is comatose, then makes miraculous recovery
South Lafourche High School freshman Trevor Toups’ life changed forever on Sept. 29. While practicing with the Tarpons freshman football team, Toups was hit and immediately fell to the ground.
He had suffered a life-threatening brain injury.
Thanks to immediate response from coaches and trainers, Toups was taken promptly to Lady of the Sea General Hospital in Galliano, where tests showed that his brain was swollen and bleeding.
He was airlifted to University Hospital in New Orleans and taken into immediate surgery, which left him in an induced coma upon its completion.
Doctors estimated that Toups could be in the hospital for weeks – if not months – while recovering.
He recovered miraculously and rode the power of prayer throughout the South Lafourche community to recovery. He left the hospital just a couple of days after his operation. Since the injury, Toups is recovering nicely, but still faces a daily battle. The initial operation removed a piece of his skull, which required another operation to put back into place. That operation gave Toups a staph infection, which caused doctors to re-remove the skull bone, clean it, then put it back into place.
Today, Trevor is about as close to 100 percent as anyone could ever imagine. He’s expected to return to school in the spring semester, and the only signs of his injury are a long, question mark-shaped scar that will forever be a reminder of that day – one that folks in that area will never forget.
No. 2: Rebowe turns around Nicholls football team
The 2015 football season was the most anticipated year in decades for Nicholls State University.
With a new coach who has promised mountains of change, the Colonels faithful united and rallied behind this year’s team, which returned just about every major piece from the year before.
Initially the Colonels struggled. Nicholls lost five-straight games to open the year, including shellackings at the hands of UL-Monroe, Colorado and McNeese State.
But around the midpoint of the season, something changed, and the Colonels became highly competitive. Nicholls won its first game of the Rebowe Era on Oct. 17, a 38-17 victory over Houston Baptist.
The Colonels fed off that win and got two others, road victories at Lamar and Southeastern Louisiana. The victory over the Lions came via a last-second field goal to cap the team’s 3-8 season.
But more important than the win/loss record in Thibodaux is what’s going on behind the scenes. The Colonels are becoming a recruiting leader – a program that is getting its pick of local talent. Local stars Anfernee Poindexter, Jacob Jackson and Harvey Allen are committed to the team’s 2016 Signing Class, which features more than a dozen verbal commitments already.
Combine the young blood with a defense that returns all 11 starters for 2016, and Rebowe thinks that his team is pretty close to competing for a Southland Title. Time will tell, but the Colonels are surely closer today than they were at this time last year.
No. 3: Local nearly wins WWE reality TV show
In 2015, the wrestling world fell in love with Zamariah “ZZ” Loupe. The Bayou Boeuf native outlasted thousands of entrants and earned a spot on the cast of WWE reality TV show Tough Enough.
While on the show, Loupe lagged behind the other performers in skill, but made up for it in personality, showcasing Cajun humor, quick-witted one-liners and an all-around goofy personality, which endeared him to fans.
Despite being in the “bottom three” on several occasions, fans opted repeatedly to keep ZZ on the show. That lasted all the way to the Tough Enough finale, where ZZ and Josh were the final two men standing. Through fan voting, Loupe wasn’t able to hang out, falling to his counterpart, known as “The Yeti.”
But all was not lost for Loupe. Because of his popularity, WWE offered the local a developmental contract, which he accepted. Today, ZZ is in Florida training to be a full-time WWE star. He is currently featured on another reality program, which gives an in-depth look at WWE superstars and how they train on a day-to-day basis. Loupe has said multiple times that his dream is to be a WWE star.
No. 4: Star QB misses 2015 season with car crash injuries
The 2015 season was supposed to be the Year of Harvey Allen down on the bayous of South Lafourche.
He ended up missing the entire season, watching in agony from the sidelines.
Just weeks before the start of the 2015 football season, Allen and teammate Larry Mack were severely injured as passengers in a one-car crash on the Bourg-Larose Highway. The vehicle carrying the football players lost control at a curve, swerved off the road and crashed into trees.
Allen suffered the worst of the injuries, sustaining a fractured pelvis, bruised lung and punctured bladder in the crash. Mack suffered a fractured pelvis and injured hamstring.
Instead of playing the 2015 football season with his team, Allen was on the shelf for every game, routinely seen cheering on his guys in his No. 11 uniform top. Mack was able to return at the midway point of the season, but never found firm footing and didn’t enjoy a huge impact.
But this story does have a happy ending.
Both Allen and Mack are 100 percent now, and each will continue their careers at the college level.
Allen signed with Nicholls State University, where he will be a slot receiver and kick returner for the Colonels. Mack opted for the JUCO route, pledging to Coffeyville Community College in Kansas.
No. 5: Nicholls baseball enjoys big year, sees 3 players get drafted
The 2015 season was a memorable one for the Nicholls baseball team.
For the second-straight season, the Colonels competed favorably in the Southland Conference, earning 34 wins, while posting an 18-11-1 mark in league play. For the second-straight season, the Colonels were not able to parlay that success into paydirt at the Southland Conference Tournament, falling in two-straight games in Sugar Land, Texas. But the fruits of Nicholls labors were still evident at the 2015 MLB Draft, as a record-high three Colonels were picked and given the opportunity to chase their professional dreams. Pitcher Grant Borne was picked by the Washington Nationals in the seventh round of the draft. He signed and is a member of the team’s farm system. Also selected were Stuart Holmes (35th round) by the Toronto Blue Jays and Ryan Deemes (36th round) by the Houston Astros. The Colonels will begin the 2016 season in a few weeks, and the team again has high hopes for the future.
No. 6: VCHS soccer wins state championship
The Vandebilt Catholic soccer team got the revenge it was looking for in March, beating an old-time foe to win the Division II State Championship.
Long a state power, Vandebilt rolled through the regular season with growing pains, sometimes struggling to pick up the style of first-year coach Paul Shenton.
But by the final weeks of the season, Vandebilt was a polished gem – one fully capable of pushing past anyone in the Division II playoff bracket.
The Terriers earned the No. 5 seed, rolling through North DeSoto, Benton and East Jefferson to get into the State Semifinals.
While there, the Terriers looked a bit like a team of destiny, scoring a thrilling 2-1 home win over No. 1 Beau Chene to earn a spot in the finals.
In the final match, the Terriers topped No. 7 Ben Franklin – the same team that had beaten Vandebilt 4-1 during the regular season.
Terriers goalie Charles Doskey was a mammoth in the title-winning match, making several Herculean saves to keep Ben Franklin out of the net.
No. 7: Nicholls bass nearly wins National Championship
Prior to 2015, most people weren’t aware that Nicholls State University had an active bass fishing team.
But by the fall, that changed, because the Colonels were officially among the best in the nation.
Spearheaded by one-two punch Tyler Rivet and Allyson Marcel, the Nicholls Bass Federation earned a spot at the Bassmasters Collegiate National Championships in Wisconsin.
While there, Nicholls impressed, holding the overall lead after Day 2 of the three-day event, before finishing third.
More than 80 teams competed in the event, which was won by Texas A&M duo Josh Bensema and Matthew McArdle.
Throughout the event, social media exploded in support of Rivet and Marcel – a pair of kids who are both from the area. Rivet is a Raceland native, while Marcel is from Houma.
The duo said they were warmed by the support they received throughout their big week, touting that it was an experience that they’ll both remember forever.
An interesting note: Rivet and Marcel are in a relationship – something they said posed several challenges when going through the competition.
No. 8: Referee strike avoided
The headlines spooked coaches around Louisiana.
During a coaching convention, long-time Louisiana football coach J.T. Curtis said that the contract dispute with officials had gotten so bad that he didn’t think there would be a prep football season in the upcoming fall.
Thankfully, it never got to that point, and the two sides were able to resolve their issues.
In mid-July, first-year LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine announced that his organization had agreed to a four-year deal with the Louisiana High School Officials Association, which would give the referees a slightly higher pay grade for certain sports.
But officials say that more important than the added money was fair treatment and being given a voice at the table on committees that discuss rule changes and other things in sports. The LHSAA gave the LHSOA that voice, providing them seats on several boards, which Bonine said will allow future problems to be avoided.
No. 9: Ellender fires Terry Washington
Just two years ago, Terry Washington was a hero at Ellender Memorial High School. He was the man labeled to be one of the saviors of the Patriots football team – the guy who took the team out of the doldrums and into the Class 4A State Playoffs.
But just two seasons later, Washington’s comeback story ended abruptly when he was fired as the Patriots head coach after a tough season on the Eastside of Houma.
Washington’s career record with the Patriots doesn’t look impressive on paper, but he inherited a team embarked on a more than 30-game losing streak, the longest such streak in the history of the area.
During his tenure, Ellender’s roster numbers grew, and the team had on-field success.
Washington said his dismissal comes because of a feud with principal Blaise Pellegrin, a guy he claims had never supported him throughout his tenure with the team.
No. 10: Nicholls halfback arrested, quits the team, then killed in wreck
When Nicholls signed Altee Tenpenny, folks around the community lit up with excitement, and with good reason. Tenpenny is a former 4-star, blue-chip halfback who was a two-year player at the University of Alabama under Nick Saban.
But it never panned out and actually ended in tragedy.
Tenpenny transferred to Nicholls in the fall after being dismissed from the team at UNLV – his landing spot after leaving Alabama because of a lack of playing time.
While waiting to be cleared by the NCAA, Tenpenny was arrested this past fall on weapons charges after allegedly walking through Thibodaux with an unregistered firearm.
After the arrest, the halfback resigned from the university and quit the team. Just a few days after that, he was killed in a car crash on Mississippi Highway 1 – the only person involved in the one-car crash.
Tenpenny was 20 at the time of the crash. •
Following a life-threatening brain injury suffered at football practice, Toups was expected to be hospitalized for weeks. He left the hospital a few days after his emergency surgery.
Bayou Bouef native Zamariah “ZZ” Loupe attracted fans across the country through the WWE reality TV show “Tough Enough.” Below, South Lafourche senior quarterback Harvey Allen missed his final high school season after an August car crash left him with multiple fractures and a torn bladder.
The Vandebilt Catholic boys’ soccer team rushes goalie Charles Doskey after his save in the penalty shootout against Ben Franklin earned the team the 2015 state championship. Doskey, then a sophomore, held Ben Franklin scoreless for 110 minutes and was named MVP of the match.
Nicholls State University head coach Tim Rebowe and his football team celebrate a 38-17 victory over Houston Baptist. The win snapped a two year, 23-game losing streak for the Colonels, who finished the 2015 season 3-8.