It’s been two years since Rick Gaille’s successful 19-year tenure as football coach at St. James High School ended. But to say that Gaille is retired would be incorrect.
Gaille has been busy doing everything from radio commentary on high school games to television color commentary on the Nicholls State-Southeastern Louisiana football game to weekly analysis on the Saints games for SportsNola.com.
This weekend’s Louisiana High School Athletic Association/State Farm Prep Classic is something Gaille not only has an interest in, but he has experience in as well.
While at St. James, Gaille compiled 169-72 record and led the Wildcats to three runner-up finishes at the Prep Classic, the most recent coming in 2007 to one of the traditional powers set to play again this season, John Curtis.
“I’m having of lot of fun,” Gaille said. “Part of it is trying to find out what is the right fit for me. I really can’t sit down and write a story like reporters do. But what I can do is analyze. I can tell you why one play worked and another one didn’t. That’s part of being a coach.”
Given his perspective, Gaille has a special take on all five Prep Classic games. The two-day LHSAA event begins Friday at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans with two games. Three games are set for Saturday.
Here is Gaille’s breakdown:
HAYNESVILLE (11-2) VS. OUACHITA CHRISTIAN (14-0): The Class 1A game matches two north Louisiana powers at 4 p.m.
“Ouachita Christian scores a lot of points and they play at a fast tempo,” Gaille said. “The haven’t lost in a couple of years. It’s hard for most teams to stay with them, but if any can, it’s Haynesville.
“You can expect Haynesville to run the ball. If they have some success, it will keep the Ouachita Christian offense off the field and that will be huge, but I still see OCS as the favorite.”
KARR (13-0) VS. NEVILLE (13-0): It’s a rematch as Karr and Neville square off the second straight year in the 4A title game at 8 p.m. Neville won last year, but Gaille said he thinks Karr quarterback Devante’ “Speedy” Noil can give the Cougars the edge.
“What people probably don’t remember is that Noil was hurt going into the championship game last year and went out during the game with an injury,” Gaille said. “Now he’s healthy and he’s such a dynamic player. He can throw it or run it. And from time to time, Karr also throws it to him. He’s a difference-maker just like (Neville quarterback John) Diarse is.”
EVANGEL CHRISTIAN (12-2) VS. JOHN CURTIS (13-0): Powers Evangel and Curtis have battled in recent years with Evangel winning twice. Gaille rates Curtis the favorite in this noon game.
“I really believe this is the best team Curtis has had,” Gaille said. “I know some people favor their 2006 team, but I think this team is better because they’re solid in every way.
“They run the football and throw it down the field. The defense is rock solid. Evangel will offer a challenge with its passing game. It’s going to be hard to keep up with Curtis.”
NOTRE DAME (12-1) VS. PARKVIEW BAPTIST (12-0): Game time is 4 p.m. The straight-forward, smash-mouth approach of both teams has prompted Gaille to dub this one the “game of bent face masks.”
“Both teams like to come out and hit you,” Gaille said. “And they’ll do it over and over again.
“I think Parkview is a little more athletic and has the edge, but I expect Notre Dame to stay with them, because that’s what they do. It should be a real good one.”
BARBE (13-1) VS. RUMMEL (13-0): Gaille, a former assistant coach at Rummel, said this may be the Raiders’ year. How Rummel defends Barbe’s high-powered offense is one factor. The former coach, who has broadcast several Rummel games, said what the Raiders offense does will be just as crucial.
“Rummel’s quarterback (Damian Williams) hasn’t played as well the last couple of weeks,” Gaille said. “The defense is solid and they’re going to have to make plays and cover Barbe. Willams has to make some plays, too.”