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October 16, 2009

Louisiana team looks for respect not sympathy

Dallas Jackson is the high school sports expert for RivalsHigh.com. Send him a question or comment at DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him at twitter.com/rivalshigh.

They have won back-to-back state titles - and would love to talk about it.

They are a 1A school that beats 5A schools - and have answers and formations they want to explain.

They, despite only having one senior starting on offense, are poised to win a third state title - and want to share their excitement.

What the Port Sulphur (La.) South Plaquemines Hurricanes do not want to do, is talk about Hurricane Katrina anymore.

The school, which was formed when Buras, Boothville-Venice, and Port Sulphur High were closed due to the devastation during the natural disaster, has been amazingly successful on the football field. But it wants to be known as a good team, not a charity case.

"It is unfair for us to get that spotlight," Head Coach Cyril Crutchfield said. "There were a lot of people affected by Katrina not just our boys.

"Football in this state is just now recovering and people are getting settled back in."

Crutchfield, the only coach in the brief history of the school, originally came from Port Sulphur High, the largest of the three now closed schools. And he wants to make one thing clear, his current school is not three times the size of his old one.

"People often write us off," he said. "They say things like, 'Of course they are good they are three high schools put into one,' and that simply is not true.

"We lost a lot of boys to other schools. We only have 212 kids enrolled right now."

If South Plaquemines would have been able to keep all of the students who were displaced from the hurricane they would be a 3A school. With all of the movement of people and players they are still slotted as a 1A team.

Adjusting to the new school did not come easily.

Seth Ancar, a three-star linebacker with scholarship offers from Grambling, Louisiana Tech, McNeese State, Northern Illinois and Tulane, remembers the transition.

"It was weird at first," he said. "We all were rivals at other schools but that was so long ago. We are having fun now."

And like many people in the area, he's looking ahead.

"I am tired of hearing about Katrina,'' he said. "It is a chapter in our life that we have to move on from."

All Ancar and his teammates want to talk about is football - and their willingness to take on all comers.

Their four out of conference games this year have all be played well above their enrollment level, with wins against 4A teams Belle Chase (La.) High and Cox (La.) Harvey, along with two tough losses to 5A schools Marrero (La.) Ehret, 18-13, and Marrero (La.) Higgins, 16-14.

"We love the competition," Ancar said. "We want to play the best out there. Those kinds of games get the best out of you."

Senior teammate Wendell Turner agreed.

"We are going to work hard no matter the competition,'' he said. "But being able to play up makes guys work even harder in the weight room and at practice."

Coach Crutchfield likes to play up in class for an entirely different reason.

"If we go and beat those 5A teams or even if we lose close game our opponents in our class read the paper and think that they can't hang with us anymore," Crutchfield said. "We already beat them psychologically."

The coach may be onto something.

The Hurricanes went through conference play in 2008-09 without being scored upon and have not allowed a point to a conference opponent since Oct. 19, 2007, averaging a 52-0 margin of victory.

The team now has their sights set higher and wants to play many of the traditional powers in Louisiana - including current RivalsHigh 100 No. 12 team River Ridge (La.) John Curtis and No. 33 West Monroe (La.) High.

"We tried to get a game with Curtis," Crutchfield said. "But it fell through.

"We would love to go into next season with them on the schedule."

The opportunity is there for South Plaquemines to toughen up the schedule.

"We will always play Belle Chase with the first game of the season," Crutchfield said. "But we would love to have Curtis week two and then maybe West Monroe or Evangel (Christian) in week four.

"I don't know if we can line up with those guys every week, but it would be great to find out where we are and how far we need to go."

Even players who will no longer be with the team want to see John Curtis on the schedule.

"Everybody talks about Curtis and what they have," Turner said. "We just want to see if we got what it takes to beat them."

While upping the programs reputation in state is a priority the focus is always on this season and winning a state title.

"Our goal is not to win district," Crutchfield said. "Some teams may be happy with that, but we want states every year."

Now that would be worth talking about.

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