Cougars, Raiders meet up in jamboree

A scrimmage at Gonzales Middle School was a little bit of a let down Saturday for members of the Ascension Cougars youth football team after their Friday night game in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

“We were all like little kids Friday night,” Cougars league president and coach Leon Blouin said during Saturday’s day-long Ascension Classic Jamboree.

The Cougars, Eastside Raiders and the St. John Jr. Wildcats played hour-long scrimmages in preparation for their season starts later this month.

But it was Friday night’s experience in the Dome that Blouin couldn’t stop talking about.

The Cougars D-team, made up of 5- and 6-year-olds, and the 9- and 10-year-olds from the B-team had “a thrill of a lifetime” when they got to play during pregame festivities of the New Orleans Saints football game.

“We got to be part of the tunnel when the Saints did their run through,” Blouin said. “We even got to shake hands and talks to some of the Saints. Even the coaches were acting like little kids.”

The Cougars were invited to the Dome thanks to their par-ticipation in the National Football League’s Heads Up Football program, which is also sponsored by USA Football.

The program, Blouin said, was created to promote a positive youth football experience for players, coaches and parents. Heads Up teachers proper football techniques and stresses safety.

“We’re teaching them that the helmet is to protect the head and not to tackle with,” Blouin said.

Blouin, who has been involved with youth football for 15 years, said the Cougars joined the Heads Up program as part of a commitment to “preventing concussions by teaching proper tackling techniques.”

“We want a safe, fun atmosphere for the players,” Blouin said.

The Cougars’ four teams field more than 100 players ages 5 to 12.

He said the Heads Up program provides coaches and parents with tips on how to spot when a child might have a concussion and what to do when one occurs.

“This is youth football,” he said. “They are kids and we’re here to teach them.”

Blouin said coaches are stressing proper tackling techniques in practice “so they’ll get it right in games.”

Blouin is hoping the players will remember not only the trip to the Super Dome, but also the reason they were invited.”

“We can’t thank the Saints organization enough for the way they treated us Friday,” he said. “This is something these kids and us coaches will remember for a lifetime. We got to play in the Dome. Wow. I still can’t believe it.”

The Cougars play in the Tri-Parish Youth Football League.