Coach of ‘Bayou Boys’ passes away days before honor
Led small Des Allemands squad to ‘61 title
Morris Friloux, who coached the Des Allemands Elementary football team to an undefeated season in 1961, passed away at the age of 77 on July 7. A ceremony to honor that team went ahead as planned on July 9 and several of Friloux’s family members took his place on the stage.
Friloux was more than a football coach to the players on that special team. In fact, many of his former players still relive the memories of the ‘61 season to this day and think of Friloux as an inspirational figure who taught them how to reach for the stars.
“He meant a great deal to us and he taught us a lot of values like never giving up and perseverance,” Donald Rome, one of Friloux’s former players, said. “He was a family man, was religious and just taught us about the basic qualities of life.”
Marshall Dufrene, who was the left halfback for the team, 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.”
Friloux had no prior coaching experience when he took over the Des Allemands 7th-8th grade squad in 1960. In fact, he only took the job because he couldn’t find work when he got out of the Air Force.
Friloux, who also had no prior teaching experience, would be paid $3,000 a year to serve as a 7th grade science teacher. As a condition of his hiring, he also had to work as the coach of the football, baseball and basketball teams.
Performing the coaching duties would bring in an additional $600 a year.
The football team lost every single game during Friloux’s first year as coach and was often ridiculed by other teams.
But the next season, the Bayou Boys got the last laugh.
Friloux made some major changes in 1961, including having the team practice plays in Cajun French. The language came across naturally to the players, who Friloux said were often late to school because they had to help their families catch catfish in the mornings. Friloux also helped get the team new equipment that year, which was much nicer than the ragged pads, helmets and pants they had used the previous season.
That, plus a lot of encouragement from Friloux, was all it took for Des Allemands to stun their competition. The team capped an undefeated season with a 32-6 win over Mimosa to capture the West Bank championship. But the town wanted more and Friloux suggested a bowl game in which his squad would take on the best team from the East Bank. Des Allemands won what would be called the Catfish Bowl, 7-6, over St. Charles Catholic.
After coaching the Bayou Boys to the championship, Friloux went on to an extremely successful career in the Federal Aviation Administration, serving as the 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 in January.
Friloux kept numerous artifacts from that season, including team pictures and letters from his players that were written 50 years ago. He had also written a movie script about the team’s magical season and was shopping it around to movie studios before his death.
The surviving members of the team were presented with a replica Catfish Bowl trophy and a team plaque at the Louisiana Catfish Festival. The original trophy burned down in a fire.
Friloux’s son, Michael, and daughter, Helene, were on hand to see the new trophy as were Friloux’s grandchildren, including Brian, Kelli, Christopher, Cole and Chase.
Rome said he and the rest of the Bayou Boys were excited about meeting their coach’s family.
“Everybody was enthused about not only seeing each other, but getting the chance to meet coach’s family...I know it was hard for them but they were great people,” he said. “This reunion meant the world to coach and the whole event went so well and I know he would have been pleased.
“He will be missed.”
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