Column: Tough-minded athletes giving a welcome reason to celebrate

Jermaine Stewart returning a fumble recovery in the second half of Friday's semifinal between Destrehan and Zachary. It was Stewart's second fumble recovery of the game - the second straight week he's forced two turnovers.

Everything falls apart, eventually.

But maybe it didn’t have to all happen at once, and all happen at this particular time.

Would that have been too much to ask? Perhaps. But be it the Saints, or the Pelicans, or LSU football, the relief we’ve all been looking for – that escape – just hasn’t been available.

Here in St. Charles Parish, though, we’re lucky. This community never seems to lack for something to rally around, to lift spirits and to cheer wildly. Destrehan’s run came to an end in the semifinals against a very tough Zachary squad, but the loss shouldn’t obscure exactly what the program accomplished, both this year and on a greater level: seven state semifinal appearances in nine years is, for lack of a better word, silly. It doesn’t happen anywhere else. The consistency required to even have teams positioned to make that kind of run seven times is one thing, to execute the run time and again as the faces in the program change year after year, is a rarity.

But Destrehan was so good this year, and so quickly, it almost makes one forget what those players and those coaches went through. To charge out the gates and win nine games in a row, most of them not close, shows their toughness, and they gave the community a much, much needed lift.

Hahnville should make people quite proud as well. The Tigers got off to a slow start, but nobody quit – five consecutive wins, a defensive transformation and another playoff appearance later, and one can now look back at the 2021 season as a heck of a ride at Tiger Stadium, during a season that quite frankly none of us could be remotely certain of back in early September.

Destrehan and Hahnville volleyball climbed through their own adversity, much in the same way. Finding gyms to practice in – all over the region – and putting the storm distractions in their home lives aside to come back together and march into the playoffs.

The past two years have been anything but normal for these student-athletes and their coaches – for any of us, of course. COVID-19 and Hurricane Ida ensured they wouldn’t have quite the same experience they envisioned, be it on the field or court, or in the classroom, or in their social lives.

And yet: winning seasons, stellar performances.

And though we’re talking about fall sports, as those teams have just wrapped up, this extends to all school athletics. Lest we forget, spring teams lost their seasons outright in 2020; winter squads saw chunks of their seasons lost, in some cases, last school year.

For those who are finished for another year, or seniors moving on from their prep athletic careers, let yourself look back and be proud of what you’ve accomplished. Nothing about any of this was normal. You proved your mental toughness.

And for those still competing, or are soon to do so: keep making us proud. Keep pushing through.


About Ryan Arena 2882 Articles
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