50 years later, ‘Bayou Boys’ remember magical season
And though it happened in 1961, the surviving players and their coach still relive the memories of that special season to this day.
Morris Friloux, who coached the “Bayou Boys” during that magical year, has an impressive resume that includes stints as the Federal Aviation Administration’s deputy director for Europe, Africa and the Middle East as well as superintendent of the FAA Academy.
“But the two years I spent with that Des Allemands football team are more important to me than anything else I’ve done,” Friloux said.
The reason the team is so special to Fril
oux, 77, is because they suffered through the lows of football before finally finding their own promise land. It mimicked Friloux’s journey that took him from a promising officer in the U.S. Air Force to a man struggling to find a job.
First season a disaster
“When I got out of the Air Force, I couldn’t find work even though I was qualified for a good career,” Friloux said. “The only job I could find was being a seventh grade science teacher at Des Allemands.”
Friloux, who had no teaching experience, would be paid $3,000 a year by the school. As a condition of his hiring, he also had to serve as the coach of the football, baseball and basketball teams.
Performing the coaching duties would bring in an additional $600 a year.
Friloux, who also had no prior coaching experience, had only 18 kids come out for the 1960 football season.
“Des Allemands had the reputation of a bayou town and no one thought the kids could play football,” Friloux said. “They were ridiculed by the other teams and were called “Bayou Boys.”
Des Allemands Elementary lost every seventh and eighth grade game that season, often in embarrassing fashion.
“I wasn’t a good coach that season and I knew that I had to improve and also fight for better equipment for my team,” Friloux said. “We were going to be ready for the next season.”
Clothes, French make the man
One of the major changes that the coach instituted in 1961 was to practice plays in Cajun French. The language came more naturally to the players, who Friloux said were often late to school because they had to help their families catch catfish in the mornings.
“Most of them didn’t like to wear shoes and for Christmas I would receive catfish filets because that’s really the only gift they could afford to give,” he said.
Wanting the team to feel special, Friloux helped get new equipment prior to the ‘61 season, which was much nicer than the ragged pads, helmets and pants the team had used the previous year.
“I almost got fired for getting them that equipment because I called one of the nicest equipment stores in New Orleans because there wasn’t a sporting goods store on the West Bank,” Friloux said. “We still had to practice in a small backyard area behind the school, but everything started to come together.”
The team began practicing more during the summer and Friloux also helped the school form both a booster club and a pep squad.
“All of the other schools in the area had those things, and I didn’t see why Des Allemands shouldn’t be able to have the same,” Friloux said. “Even though we finally had nicer equipment and everything was starting to take shape, I told them that we were going to embrace our role as the Bayou Boys the following season.”
Road to the championship
When Des Allemands showed up to the 1961 jamboree, the other teams were surprised to hear the quarterback signal “Hutt un, deaux, trois, quatre” before snapping the ball. The Bayou Boys then shocked their opponent on the field.
They won their jamboree game 14-0 after scoring on a reverse kickoff for a 75-yard touchdown and a statue of liberty play that netted a 65-yard touchdown.
“Those were the only two plays we used in practice,” Friloux said, laughing. “And they both worked.”
In their next game against Luling, Des Allemands took an early lead on a 75-yard touchdown pass by Lane Foster and went on to earn a 26-0 victory. That win gave the team the confidence they would need in an upcoming battle against Hahnville, who was considered the best team on the West Bank.
“That was our first real game and Hahnville had three times the players we did and our guys were shocked when they saw them,” Friloux said. “We went down 12-0 after the first half.”
When Friloux was rallying the troops during halftime, he came across star L.J. Folse. The fast athlete told his coach that he kept falling down because his shoes were split open.
“He asked if he could take his shoes off and I told him I thought that would be OK,” Friloux said. “Boy am I glad I told him he could do that.”
Running barefoot, Folse scored three touchdowns in the second half, which gave his team a 20-12 victory over Hahnville.
After their huge win, Des Allemands then knocked off Mimosa 32-6 to cap an undefeated season and the West Bank championship.
But the town wanted more.
“The only thing I can compare it to is the hysteria people had about the Saints last season,” Friloux said. “Everyone in Des Allemands was so pumped up about the team and they wanted us to keep playing. I started looking for a way to make the season last a little longer.”
Friloux suggested a bowl game in which his squad would take on the best team from the East Bank. Everyone agreed and wanted the game to be called the Catfish Bowl. Friloux set his sights on St. Charles Catholic, who was also undefeated and fielded three times the number of players as his Bayou Boys.
During the game, St. Charles took an early 6-0 lead that they held on to until the final minutes of the contest. SCC actually had the ball on the Des Allemands 12-yard line, and could have won if they just decided to run the ball.
Instead, they decided to pass and Folse intercepted it and ran it all the way to the SCC 10-yard line. After three straight running plays, Des Allemands would score on a 4-yard run by Folse to tie the score at 6-6. Aaron Robichaux then scored the winning extra point on a 2-yard run.
“One would have thought that they won the Super Bowl,” Friloux said of the celebration that followed.
And that moment stuck with the coach as well. Friloux has kept numerous artifacts from that season, including a picture of Folse’s shoe, the Catfish Bowl trophy and letters from his players that were written 50 years ago.
“It was just a special moment for me and something that has stuck with me,” Friloux said.
Marshall Dufrene, who was the Bayou Boys left halfback, agrees.
“We believed in each other because coach taught us how to gel,” he said. “I now find great solace in life knowing that for a few minutes one night, my teammates are still alive and those who have passed on experienced the greatest feeling of being called a champion.”
The coach met with several former players last weekend at a mini reunion and will have a larger reunion at this year’s Catfish Festival. This will serve as the 50-year celebration of the first-ever Catfish Bowl and planned activities include presenting Allemands Elementary School with a Catfish Bowl trophy. The planned display will also include a photo and plaque of the team members.
Friloux has located several of his former players, but three - Jimmy Aucoin, Danny Perrer and Michael Petty - have died. He is still searching for Wilfred Breaux, Ronald Cortez and David Perkins.
If you know the whereabouts of any of the above men, e-mail Friloux at email@example.com.
Friloux is also in the process of writing a movie script about the Bayou Boys.
“Meeting with the guys was a great experience,” Friloux said. “I cant wait for our Catfish Festival reunion.”
For more information on the Bayou Boys, visit www.catfishbowl61.com.
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