The Louisiana Bayou Hurricanes came into the Gulf States Football League playoffs confident, having won six of their last seven games at that point to secure the No. 4 seed in the Bayou Conference.
Once they drew the 9-0-1, No. 1 seed Gulf Coast Trojans for their first-round game, nearly everyone outside of the Hurricanes organization thought their season would end there. However, Louisiana Bayou had other plans.
“I kept telling them, ‘Just trust the process,’” Hurricanes general manager Derek Leger told Developmental Football USA. “I’ve seen too many teams where telling them to just trust the process isn’t good enough, but these guys, they nod their head and they believe. Maybe that’s the only thing they’ve been missing is the chance to prove they are the best.”
Not only did the Hurricanes have to play the top team in the league and one of the best in the region, they also had to travel three hours to Biloxi, Miss. – during a time when the weather can be unpredictable on the Gulf Coast – to do so.
“Here’s the deal, all season long, the story around the league has been the Trojans,” Leger said. “That’s all you’d hear about, the Trojans, the Trojans, the Trojans. I’m not going to take anything away from that football team, they do things the right way. They’re a first-class organization. They play clean football, they don’t make many mistakes, they don’t turn over the football. They sit back and they play that way, they don’t get ahead of themselves and don’t take too many risks.”
Knowing the tendencies to expect from the Trojans, Leger decided his team would show up to Biloxi and play them at their own game.
“I knew what it took to beat them, but I knew it wasn’t going to be pretty,” Leger said. “I knew it wasn’t going to be full of highlights, but we knew what it would take to beat this team. There was one thing we could do that would shorten the game, keep it close and allow us to win in the fourth quarter and that was run to between the tackles.”
Deciding to slow the pace of the game can make for a more physical game as two teams try to wear each other down. In most cases, the team with more depth wins.
In most cases.
“At the end of the day I’m going to put faith in my guys,” Leger said. “We showed up to the field and I couldn’t count the number of guys they had – a huge, deep roster. We were carrying about 25 guys, I know every single one. I know their kids, I know their wives, I know their personal lives. You can’t look across the field and say that about 50-plus guys. You can’t know that many guys on that level.
“We walk into a lot of football games against deep football teams, big boys. At the end of the day, there’s something to say about the human brain, ‘He who says he can and he who says he can’t are both right.’ Every single guy on this roster shows up and they fight you tooth and nail until it gets late and the guys on the other sideline have two options, they’ll keep fighting or they’ll crack.”
It wasn’t the Hurricanes that cracked on Saturday night as they stormed the coast and earned a 6-0 win over the team that was predicted to win the GSFL.
“Our guys, when they pin their backs against the wall, you are playing with fire,” Leger said. “I’ve got tears in my eyes right now because I’m proud of these guys.”
“These are my guys, these are my family. I love these guys and I’m going to do what’s best for them. I knew they would fall in line. I knew they would follow suit. At no point, did it ever cross my mind, ‘What if we don’t win?’ This wasn’t an upset, Disney doesn’t need to come in. We are and always have been a better football team, it just took us a little while to get going this year.”
Louisiana Bayou came into the season with high expectations, but after a 1-2 start to the season, many outsiders chalked it up to hype, labeled them pretenders and moved on with their lives.
“We didn’t get these pats on the back when we had just lost to the Dragons and we were disappointed about it,” Leger said. “They pat you on the back when you finally take out Goliath, because they were patting Goliath on the back all along.”
The Hurricanes scored the game’s only touchdown on a pass from quarterback Josh Edison to wide receiver Tyland Fields. Fields also had an interception as the defense rallied together to pitch a shutout.
“Time and time again, the defense was put in position where they would have to stop the Trojans in the red zone and they still held this team to zero points,” Leger said. “They played flawless football (Saturday) night and I’m sure they all slept well afterwards. They all gave maximum effort each and every minute and showed so much heart. I’m so proud of the defense.”
Carrying just 25 players on the road trip, Louisiana Bayou was missing some key parts to their family.
“The best part about it, we have two players and a coach that are in the military and they couldn’t be there last night and I put the pressure on myself to win, because I respect these men,” Leger said. “Let’s throw football aside for a minute, I respect these men and women that defend this country, to have these guys as part of the team and bring them together with the character we want. They are model citizens and they paint the picture of what we want a Hurricane to be.
“When I heard back from them and knew they were proud, that’s the first time I cried. I didn’t cry at the game, I knew we were the better team, I knew we were going to win. I was never concerned, seeing my kids excited, seeing the family excited, seeing the team over the moon, they were so excited – none of that ever brought tears to my eyes, because all along I knew we were the better football team. When our guys out there risking everything text me or message me telling me we gave them something to be proud of, to cling to until they get back, that’s why I cried.”
The GSFL was full of upsets in the first round of the playoffs as the No. 3 seed Louisiana Tigers knocked off the No. 2 seed Louisiana Eagles – a team the Hurricanes had struggled with this season.
“In my opinion the Eagles were the toughest team in this league to beat, so that’s a huge accomplishment on the Tigers part,” Leger said. “The Trojans were 2-0 against the Tigers. We’re playing the Tigers this week which I believe is the toughest team left.”
The No. 4 seed All-Stars also upset the No. 1 seed Knights in the Gulf Conference, and the No. 2 seed Brawlers put away the No. 3 seed Hawks.
“I know we’ve got a tough one this week with the Tigers,” Leger said. “If I had to guess it would be a lot like this last one, low-scoring, old-fashioned football game like your grandfather would like.”
The Hurricanes will travel to Baton Rouge on Saturday to face the Tigers.