40 years ago, a night that changed Louisiana prep football

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Forty years ago Saturday, on Dec. 15, 1978, a state championship high school football game would be played  that would become one of the most significant prep events in our state’s history.

Back then, high school championship games were played at home or nearby neutral sites. When Catholic League rivals Jesuit and St. Augustine reached the Class AAAA title game, the schools elected to play the game inside the three-year-old Superdome.

And the people came – reports ranged the attendance between 42,000 and 45,000 – to watch the Purple Knights defeat the Blue Jays 13-7 for the first of back-to-back AAAA titles.

“What a spectacular event,” then-Jesuit coach Billy Murphy event recalled last week. “As I told my kids after the game, they won on the scoreboard, but there were no losers that night. It was a great spectacle and you’ll never forget it.”

Legendary St. Aug coach Otis Washington’s team had beaten Jesuit in the regular season. “I was a little apprehensive going into the game,” Washington said earlier this fall. “Jesuit had a lot of tradition. We knew that if we beat Jesuit, then St. Aug would have ‘arrived.'”

Darren Dixon hit Gregory Hobbs on touchdown passes of 53 and 30 yards, the second of which snapped a 7-7 tie early in the fourth quarter. Lon McCloskey’s 76-yard run produced the lone Jesuit touchdown late in the third quarter.

“We knew what we had to do,” said Dixon, now an assistant principal at St. Augustine. “We ran basically the same plays over and over. It was just a matter of going into that game and getting it done.”

Tommy Henry
Tommy Henry with plaque presented to Curl family at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome during the 2018 Allstate Sugar Bowl Prep Classic finals on Saturday.

On the heels of that night, then-Superdome public relations director Bill Curl, always the visionary, saw an opportunity.

He thought the LHSAA should play all of its title games in one day in the Dome and took the concept to the association’s then-assistant commissioner, Tommy Henry. There were such events in basketball, baseball and other sports, but not football.

The LHSAA agreed, and in 1981, the first Superdome Classic was played.

Every year since – except after Katrina in 2005 – the Dome has hosted all title games, even as the menu has grown from four games to five and eventually to nine.

Last Saturday, on the final day of this year’s Allstate Sugar Bowl LHSAA Prep Classic, as the event is now known, there were two significant events tying back to 40 years ago.

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Lenny Vangilder

Lenny Vangilder

Sales/Content/Production

Lenny has been involved in college athletics since the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…

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