Don Wattigny ties to Karr, Warren Easton run deep
Any rivalry is predicated on being competitive, being spirited, even heated at times and with common ground involving both sides.
When it comes to Karr and Warren Easton, all of the boxes are checked.
The rivalry is renewed as two of the top three Class 4A teams in the state collide with the District 9-4 title on the line, as well as a very high playoff seed when the two programs collide Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Tad Gormley Stadium. You can watch the game live at CrescentCitySports.com.
The architect of the Karr program will be watching with great interest, great pride and a big smile.
Don Wattigny was the head coach of the Cougars from 1991-2003. He guided the Cougars to the 3A state championship in 1993 and guided the Cougars back to the state title game in 1995 and again in 1999. Jabbar Juluke took over the program in 2004 and served through 2012, guiding the Cougars to state title games in consecutive years from 2010-2012 and winning it all in 2012 before leaving to become a college assistant at Louisiana Tech.
Wattigny coached both Jerry Phillips and Brice Brown at Karr.
“I coached both of them,” Wattigny said. “A lot of the kids coaching with both Jerry and Brice played for us at Karr. They were both good kids, a pleasure to coach. We sent Bernard Robertson, Noel Ellis and Jerry to Tulane. I coached Nate Jones, who was the previous head coach at Karr as well.”
“I am proud that they have carried on the tradition we tried to establish at Karr, to do things the right way, have pride in our school and do it the right way,” Wattigny said. “They have worked hard to instill that in the kids, you can see it and it has paid off. We established discipline and that is so important in any program. That wins games for you and it still wins for Karr. We also worked hard to command respect for ourselves and for those we played. We always stressed to the kids not to run their mouths.”
Wattigny remembers Brown with great fondness.
“Brice was one of those blue collar-type players,” Wattigny said. “He had a good attitude. He was a hard worker. He kept his nose to the grindstone. He was disciplined and easy to coach. He was never a problem. He was a good football player and a good person. Brice was a very good offensive lineman for us. When we needed valuable yardage, we ran behind him. We were a lot like John Curtis. We ran it most often. I believe in moving the chains, keep the chains from the other guy. Brice helped do that.”
The Cougar staff includes seven coaches who played under Wattigny at Karr.
They include former Cougar quarterback Tori Dennis, who played for Wattigny, Jarret Jones played defensive back for Wattigny, Errin Singleton and Nick Foster played running back, Norman Randall played defensive end and outside linebacker, Brennan Harris played defensive end and Edward Dillon played outside linebacker for Wattigny. Dillon was part of the state championship team in 1993 as a captain.
Another assistant, Taurus Howard, was a basketball player for the Cougars and is the current head basketball coach at Karr.
“They don’t come any better than Dillon,” Wattigny said. “Give me 11 Dillon’s and I will play against anybody. All of those guys were superb players and great young men. I am so proud to see them doing so well now and still involved with Karr extending their legacies.”
While Wattigny is fond of the Karr coaches he coached, he is fond of the Warren Easton head coach whom he coached at Karr.
Jerry Phillips is in his second season as the head coach of the Eagles after starring at Karr and Tulane on Tommy Bowden’s unbeaten team in 1998.
“Jerry was going to be strictly a basketball player but we finally got him out to play football his junior and senior year,” Wattigny said. “He helped us as much on offense as he did on defense. He had breakaway speed. He broke a 94 yard run to help us beat West Feliciana, running away from everyone. Noel didn’t play his sophomore and junior years but he played his senior year. He had 17 interceptions, two of which were taken away. Who does that in a season, much less a career?”
Noel Ellis and former Karr quarterback Munchie Legeaux are now at Warren Easton. Legeaux played at Karr under Jabbar Juluke. Both left Brown’s staff at Karr to join Phillips at Easton in the last two years.
“Both Jerry and Brice are very humble,” Wattigny explained. “They don’t lack confidence but they are not cocky. They work hard and get the job done. They both surround themselves with good coaches and let them coach. They understand it is not about them but about those around them. That is the secret to success. They make coaches.”
Wattigny will be in attendance Thursday, serving in a special capacity while pulling for both coaches.
“They invited me to go out for the coin flip,” Wattigny said. “I told them I would be honored to do it. I am proud of both guys. I love Jerry but I will be wearing my Karr shirt. Jerry understands. So does Brice. I am a Cougar.”
The legacy left by Don Wattigny lives on as a shining light, both at Karr and Warren Easton.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…