by Taylor Williams
November 25, 2009 – Ever since Hurricane Katrina wrecked the gulf coast in August 2005, much of Louisiana has been in a state of perpetual rebuilding. Having recently passed the four year anniversary of our nation’s greatest natural disaster, the recovery efforts appear inconsistent and never-ending. In New Orleans, for example, one can find devastation just blocks away from the revived French quarter, where football fans gather en masse to celebrate their teams’ accomplishments. Any of these people, when asked about the immediate aftermath of Katrina, will cite the inspired play of the Saints as instrumental in encouraging the return to New Orleans, and subsequent rebuilding efforts. Now, four years later, the Saints are 10-0, arguably the best team in the NFL, and backed by a fervently loyal fan base, some of whom spent time on the roof of the Louisiana Superdome where the Saints play to avoid the floods. But the Saints are not the only football players making an incredible recovery from Katrina. On the high school circuit, the 4A Edna Karr Cougars, an Orleans Parish powerhouse, are also displaying the kind of gridiron recovery which has uplifted the morale of local fans and Katrina survivors. Led by Coach Jabbar Juluke, the Cougars have trounced their 4A competition this year, posted impressive victories against 5A schools Jesuit and Archbishop Shaw, and have roared into the playoffs with a 52-0 routing of Riverdale in the first round.
According to Coach Juluke, a former free safety at St. Augustine high school and Southern University, the Cougars are “hitting the pinnacle of rebuilding,” a reference to the fact that the program has had to be reconstructed from the ground up after Katrina. Coach Juluke credits much of his success as a coach to the responsibilities inherent to playing free safety, or “the quarterback of the defense, and natural defensive leader.” With an experienced leader at the helm, his current team similarly draws much of its strength from its seasoned group of juniors and seniors, who strive to “mimic the former players, both on and off the field, as part of rebuilding.” This philosophy has manifested itself primarily in the play of the Cougar offensive and defensive lines, which have been consistent all year long, and are referred to by the coach as “the engine to the automobile.” Specifically, senior offensive linemen Trey Bordelon and Audoniss Madison have stepped it up against the 5A schools, whose longer rosters and nicer facilities haven’t been enough to tame the Cougars’ attack, led by future Colorado Buffaloes Munchie Legaux (quarterback) and Kennan Canty (wide receiver). One need only examine the scores the Cougars have been putting up all season to know that this offense is no joke, regardless of its 4A status. As the Cougars enter the second round of the playoffs, the experience factor becomes invaluable, and they have it both on the field and on the sideline. So don’t be surprised to see this four year recovery cycle end in a championship as the rebuilding process comes to fruition. For all the outsiders who marveled at the devastation of Katrina and all but turned their backs on the gulf coast, here’s a little proof that full recovery is indeed feasible. It just takes a little time and inspiration, a valuable lesson which FEMA could have learned a little better. Maybe when the season ends they can borrow a page of two from Coach Juluke’s playbook. All of us in Louisiana know that their agency could use a little rebuilding of its own.