Sports and community build unity
There are two men that I will always remember for how much they loved their community and wanted to see the best in people – Tony Fuselier and Tim Fontenot.
Thursday night at the Joe Nagata Memorial Jamboree the football fans there honored the memory of founding chairman Tony Fuselier.
Tony was the man behind the idea of Eunice High and St. Edmund joining together for a jamboree to show respect for coach Nagata.
This year is the fifth annual Nagata jamboree and the stadium had Blue Jays and Bobcats roaming the sidelines.
At the jamboree supper Wednesday, EHS principal Mitch Fontenot praised the humility and dedication that Tony gave to his community.
“Tony always billed this jamboree as a house united,” Fontenot told the crowd. He knew the importance of our two schools working together and the good it would bring to Eunice.
“His vision was for both schools to come together as a family to create a last bond for our community.
“Like all families, there are sometimes bumps in the road,” Fontenot continued. “But like all good families, you find ways to smooth the road; to come back together.
It was Tony’s vision to show other communities how it could be done.
“Eunice, due to Tony, is a shining example of what can happen when schools pull together and work with each other,” the principal said. “We will continue to be a house united.”
Wednesday in the EHS gym, the Lady Cats welcomed the first-ever St. Edmund high sschool volleyball team to play in a scrimmage.
I think these two teams should meet every season as part of the “House United” week.
In Ville Platte, the revival of the Tee Cotton Bowl is another example of a community coming together.
Physical therapist Tim Fontenot led the charge to start the rivalry game in 2000.
Sacred Heart and Ville Platte High had played one another over the decades, but Fontenot saw an opportunity to make the game between the largely African-American public school and the largely white private school into a marquee event of sporstmanship.
I remember how excited Tim was when I interviewed him back in 1999 about the birth of the Tee Cotton Bowl – a game that drew national attention.
Sacred Heart holds a 7-6 lead in the series, since it was dubbed the Tee Cotton Bowl, but Ville Platte High won the last six straight.
Then, the game abruptly ended before the 2013 season and for the next four years, the Tee Cotton Bowl would not be played.
But with the push of Fontenot and the two coaches – Sacred Heart’s Josh Harper and Jorie Randle from Ville Platte – the game returns to the Evangeline Parish community.
“It is a game that draws the whole community together in which winning is important, but not the most important thing,” Fontenot once said.
Fontenot stressed that respect, effort, and love for your opponent is most important.
“We are stronger together than we are apart,” Fontenot said.
St. Edmund and EHS will not face each other on the field like the Tee Cotton Bowl, but it is great to see what can happen when communities are united.