I’ve been a sports fan all of my life – I learned to read before kindergarten by watching SportsCenter and memorizing the names of my favorite players as they flashed across the screen.
But my first-ever true bout with fanaticism came when I was 12.
After a seven-year stay in elementary school, I graduated to Golden Meadow Junior High School.
That meant for the first time, the school I was a part of had a football team.
To top it off, we had a solid squad – one of the best in Lafourche Parish. We won the championship that year.
I was in love!
I remember it like it was yesterday.
Our games were on Thursday nights – we played home games at South Lafourche’s stadium.
Early in the week, we awaited the contest in anticipation. We bickered and griped insults about our opponents, proclaiming 30-, 40- or even 50-point victories were forthcoming.
Sure, we never watched our opponent play and had no idea what was about to happen.
That didn’t matter – we loved our school. Love makes people do and say silly things! We just knew we were going to win no matter the circumstances. We weren’t afraid to let anyone know how we felt.
Then game day arrived.
The fun officially got under way.
At my school, we would have dress-up days for all of the games. From camouflage to pajamas, we always were doing something to cut up in the name of school spirit.
While the students wore costume attire, our football players walked the school in their jersey tops, strutting the campus like a proud warrior about to go to battle.
On normal days, these guys were our friends and equals.
On game day, the jersey just gave them a little bit of extra clout.
After a long, dreary morning and afternoon of school during which we studied the clock and awaited dismissal, seventh period finally came.
It was pep-rally time!
Junior high pep rallies have become myths in my memory – the stories of their greatness have become greatly exaggerated.
Heck, the last time I discussed this topic with my friends, it was comical how overblown the stories have become.
Regardless, they were still pretty epic – memories I will remember for the rest of my life.
It was the perfect send-off to the game, which was an evening of sheer emotion – either in victory or defeat.
I’m sure my story has resonated with many football fans in the area.
That’s because we have some pretty special junior high rivalries within our area.
For my own junior high, we disliked Larose-Cut Off Junior High.
Check that – we hated LCO.
In every sport we played, we defined our success based on whether or not we beat LCO. All of the other games mattered, but not nearly as much as that one did.
If we beat them, we were on top of the world – no matter what happened in any other game.
If we lost, we lamented and wondered about what could have been.
I’m 25 and have been out of junior high for more than 10 years.
Every time my friends and I gather for reunions, we always bring up my ninth-grade year when we lost to LCO at the buzzer in the final game of our basketball season.
Our rivalry is great, but it eventually dies an uneventful, anti-climatic death because students at both schools feed into South Lafourche, so we all end up friends before long.
For Evergreen and Houma Junior High, the early days are just the beginning!
That’s because the kids at these schools are rivals in both junior high and high school, with Evergreen’s kids feeding into H.L. Bourgeois and HJH’s kids going to Terrebonne.
That means by the time someone is a senior, they will have played six years worth of rivalry games against their opponent.
Needless to say, H.L. Bourgeois and Terrebonne games in any sport are some of the fiercest, most intense athletic competitions within our area.
Don’t believe me – I challenge you to catch a game between the schools in any sport.
Heck, the two team’s volleyball rivalry alone is on a level that is as dramatic and action-packed as any that we see locally.
For all intents and purposes, the Evergreen and Houma Junior High football rivalry ended this past week, as the teams played for the final time in ninth-grade competition last Wednesday.
The final game in the establishment comes because H.L. Bourgeois has recently expanded its campus and will now house 9th graders next season.
Sure, the teams will be able to play in future seasons. But with ninth graders not on the field, it won’t be the same.
Likewise, H.L. Bourgeois’ freshman team will probably play Houma Junior High. But again, without the name Evergreen involved, it just won’t be the same.
No one is criticizing H.L. Bourgeois’ expansion – it’s a great time in their school’s history and I’m truly happy for their progress.
But selfishly, their move to grades 9-12 is a disappointing one because it marks the end of an era.
Probably 99 percent of my job entails me covering high school, college and professional sporting action.
But that 1 percent of junior high will always hold a special spot in my heart.
I’m proud to say I was able to cover the final three games in the Evergreen and Houma Junior High rivalry.
I’m sad to see it go.