VILLE PLATTE — The pageantry and harmonious community spirit that once surrounded the annual T-Cotton Bowl football game between crosstown rivals Ville Platte High and Sacred Heart apparently is not enough to stop the postponement of this year’s contest.
Ville Platte native and physical therapist Tim Fontenot, who conceived the game played between two schools located several blocks apart, said he is unsure about the future of the event, which has attracted national attention since its inception in 2000.
Fontenot said the game was originally set for Sept. 19, but events occurring outside the athletic departments of each school forced the cancellation.
“It’s just sad and so shortsighted that this event is being allowed to go away,” Fontenot said. “This is something from which both schools can benefit.
“When the game was being played, there have been no problems at all. In the 13 years we have played the game, I think six personal fouls have been called.”
Fontenot said problems began when SHHS coach Doug Guillory needed another home game.
“Doug had only three home games scheduled, so he asked the Ville Platte High coach (Tracey Jagneaux) to play the game at Sacred Heart for a second straight year. Tracey agreed to do that,” said Fontenot.
Fontenot said agreeing to play the game at Sacred Heart again this season created a series of issues with some Ville Platte High supporters.
“At Sacred Heart, there were some parents who didn’t want to play the game because (SHHS) has lost six games in a row,” Fontenot said.
Jagneaux did not want to comment on specifics about why the game is not being played this year.
“It’s due to things that went on outside the school,” Jagneaux said. “Everything was done to save (the game), but it didn’t work out. We are very disappointed that we are not playing.”
Guillory did not return a call made to his cell phone.
Evangeline Parish school board member David Landreneau said players from both teams petitioned the board during a June meeting to help save this year’s game.
“Each school had representatives that came before the board,” Landreneau said. “All the kids told us was: they wanted to play, but this is not a school board matter. It involves the scheduling of a game between two schools.”
Jagneaux said, although Ville Platte and Sacred Heart still have open dates for the scheduled night of the bowl game, he doesn’t expect they will be filled.
“The only team we could find that had an open date that night was Gueydan, and they have not called us back,” Jagneaux said.
Fontenot said it’s ironic a game that initially generated goodwill has fallen victim to bickering between elements in town.
“The coaches and the kids want to play,” Fontenot said. “For so long we have had something so good and to throw it away is just foolish.”
Fontenot said in 2002 a NFL Films crew came to Ville Platte to chronicle the game and display the pregame events, which included a banquet, drew the schools and town together.
“The NFL crew that came down compared the game to Army-Navy and Harvard-Yale,” Fontenot said. “There was a silver punch bowl trophy that we had created in New York City for the winner, fireworks at the game, skydivers dropping down and a big game atmosphere for a small town.
“Tony Dungy recognized us on ESPN and Pope John Paul II sent a letter recognizing the game. If he is canonized, we will be the first game to have our own patron saint. Both schools have gotten $9,000 to help buy helmets and equipment.
“The game was intended to show how two schools can work together, but it’s become a power thing outside the schools now. The schools could still actually sign a contract and play the game. I know that everything we tried to do with the game was good.”
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