John Lambert has been wanting to do this for quite some time. Gary Hill has been.
Lambert, the former East Ascension head coach and current Hahnville assistant, has been asking the organizers of the annual HTV-Lions Club Bayou vs. River Region All-Star Showdown for a few years now how he could get involved in the season-ending showcase game, which pits the best of the River Parishes against the best of the Bayou.
Hill, the head coach at Terrebonne High School in Houma, has been coaching the Bayou team for a few years now and volunteered to do it again.
The River Parishes All-Stars will take on the Bayou Area All-Stars at 7 p.m. Friday at Nicholls State University.
Tickets are $7 and may be purchased at the gate. All proceeds go to the Thibodaux Lions Club’s causes, including the Eye Foundation and the Crippled Children’s Camp, and to fund college scholarships. Last year the Club awarded $7,500 in scholarships to student-athletes and cheerleaders participating in the game. In nine years, the organization has awarded 96 scholarships worth more than $48,000.
This is the 13th annual season finale showdown, the eighth to pit River parishes St. John the Baptist, St. Charles and St. James against Bayou parishes Terrebonne, Lafourche and Assumption . The River Parishes region leads the series 4-3.
“I’ve been wanting to get involved,” Lambert said. “So I told them, if they ever needed somebody, to call me.”
Lambert got the call this year while Hill took on the role of head coach of the Bayou team for a few years now.
“We had a bunch of young coaches to step up,” Hill said. “But we’re all kind of swamped with school and classes, so I stepped up and said, ‘I’ll do it if y’all will help me.’ ”
While happy to volunteer, Lambert and Hill are finding trying to mesh a team out of multiple personalities and talents is tricky. So is trying to overcoming cross-town rivalries.
“We haven’t had any trouble,” Hill said. “In fact it’s sort of helped us. They like to talk to each other about the games. They’ll say, ‘Oh, we beat y’all. Then they’ll make a play at practice and say, ‘You made that play in the game against us.’ They’re all getting along.”
Lambert took a different tact, getting his players to bring extra helmet stickers for trading. Once he convinced a Destrehan player to accept a Hahnville “H,” the ice was broken.
“Now they’ve all got all kinds of different stickers on their helmets,” Lambert said.
The easier task is utilizing the talent at hand. Lambert goes into the game with a slew of River Parishes standouts, including East St. John quarterback Leonard Davis, a Tulane commitment, who passed for more than 1,700 yards and 14 touchdowns; Hahnville running back Sergio Medina, who rushed for 1,035 yards and 13 touchdowns; Riverside Academy running back Jonquial Sanders, who scored 17 touchdowns; and River Parishes leading rusher Kylum Favorite of West St. John, who rushed for 1,315 yards and 19 touchdowns this season.
Hill boasts a roster that includes Vandebilt Catholic quarterback Elijah McGuire, who led the state in rushing with more than 2,600 yards and 31 touchdowns.
Talent aside, Lambert said the best part of the all-star experience has been working with all of the local talent.
“You see these guys and you know what they did, but you don’t really get to know them,” Lambert said. “And I never would have gotten to know them if I hadn’t experienced this.”
Said Hill: “We’ve got some really talented players. But the thing is, for a lot of these kids, this is the last time they’ll ever wear a football uniform. For some, it might be their last outside chance to get a look and maybe get a chance to play at the next level.”
We want them to go out and have a great time and have this game be something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.”