One week ago, the Louisiana Bayou Hurricanes capped off their season with a 20-16 win over the Mississippi Brawlers to take home the Gulf States Football League Championship and put the exclamation point at the end of a storybook year.
Going into the playoffs, no one outside of either organization expected these two teams to make it all the way to the championship. The Bayou Hurricanes started the season 1-2, finished the regular season 7-3 and snuck into the playoffs as a No. 4 seed, but upset the No. 1 seed in the first round, then routed the No. 3 seed in the semifinals to make it to the championship game.
“It feels great, it really does, to be able to prove everybody wrong,” Hurricanes defensive tackle Sage Guidry told Developmental Football USA. “I pretty much grew up as an underdog and I always go for the underdog, but it’s usually the amount of fight you have. It’s not the size of dog in the fight, it’s the amount of heart you have and that’s what we did. We played with pure heart all season.”
The Brawlers finished the regular season 5-5, but won the games that mattered most to make it all the way to the GSFL Championship, before coming up just four points shy of the title.
“A lot of teams kept saying, going into the championship game, that the Brawlers aren’t a great team, that we should blow the Brawlers out,” Hurricanes quarterback Josh Edison told Developmental Football USA. “They put up a good fight and we ended up pulling it out at the end.”
As a team, Louisiana Bayou overcame more than its share of adversity throughout the season, and wouldn’t have gotten this far without each and every member of the team. However, in the playoffs, one player in particular really stepped it up at several vital moments.
“Tyland Fields is one of the most humble players on the field,” Edison said. “He played running back, wide receiver and defensive back. He was probably the MVP of our season. In our first playoff game versus the Gulf Coast Trojans, he caught the only touchdown of the game to win 6-0. In the championship game, with a minute left on the clock, he caught the go-ahead touchdown to give us a 20-16 victory. He had four touchdowns over three playoff games.”
At this level, even something like a 1-2 start can send some team’s seasons into a complete tailspin, but for the Hurricanes, it woke them up and motivated them to reach their potential.
“I think the biggest problem was, we had a lot of athletes with their own different egos and we weren’t really gelling until we started trusting each other and really believing in one another,” Hurricanes head coach Phil Norman told Developmental Football USA. “It happened more off the field than on the field. It made us more of a brotherhood and we saw what we had, then the guys figured out their roles during the season.”
While this championship was a major breakthrough for all of Acadiana, it was extra special for Coach Norman.
“This is real special for me, because I was one of the original Louisiana Hurricanes that was out here and I won a championship with them as an athlete,” Norman said. “This was my first year as a head coach and I had a chance to coach the team. We had a lot of people doubt us, because there’s been a lot of teams come up and folded, so I had a lot against my back. It’s unbelievable right now.”
The championship has already been a catalyst for change for a region that endured decades of doubt about success at the developmental football level.
“The buzz about us is definitely going around now,” Guidry said. “Now that we’re in off-season, a lot of players are talking to our coaches about coming out for tryouts. It’s always been a good area to have a team, but no one could ever get anything established. A team would start up and fold, start up and fold, but now us going out and being able to win a championship in our first year shows we’re a team from Acadiana that’s legit.”
With the recruiting fields now ripe for harvest, Coach Norman’s vision for what the Hurricanes can become is expanding more and more each week.
“We’re trying to take it wherever we can take it,” Norman said. “Next, year we will be back in the GSFL and our plan is to travel and become a nationwide team, be in the Top 10 or Top 5 in the nation.”
Just like this year’s championship run, reaching those goals won’t be easy, especially considering the Hurricanes now have the proverbial target on their backs.
“I believe we are the most hated team now, because we were the most disrespected in the beginning,” Hurricanes running back Glenn Norman told Developmental Football USA. “Now, we’re the most hated team, because everybody didn’t think we would get this far, so I think they’re really going to hunt us down next year to try to make sure we don’t get anywhere.”
While there’s a lot of time between now and next season, right now, Norman expects the GSFL pecking order to be pretty similar in 2018.
“Definitely the Louisiana Eagles, the Trojans and the Dragons,” Norman said. “Those are going to be the top teams we’ll face if they return next year.”
But for right now, the Louisiana Bayou Hurricanes are the top team and they’ll carry that title into 2018, looking to win a second championship.
“A lot of our players are coming back,” Edison said. “A lot, if not all, of our team is coming back next season to defend the title.”