High school football games in Louisiana will never be the same.
The opening week of the season was one marred with violence on and off the field. There were a pair of massive brawls in the northern part of the state, as benches cleared during overtime between Green Oaks and Southwood. While that was occurring, less than three hours east another brawl had taken place earlier.
The Vidalia High at Sicily Island game was called with two minutes left in the first half after a Tiger player opted to do his best Kyle Turley impression and rip off a Viking’s helmet which of course sparked a brawl.
A different type of violence — or threat of violence rather — marred the Tee Cotton Bowl as well — the annual rivalry game between crosstown rivals Ville Platte High and Sacred Heart.
Not only was the kickoff time moved up an hour, but spirit squads, trainers, and managers were not allowed to attend the event. A celebrated and inspiring event that was designed by Dr. Tim Fontenot as a way for the small town to put race and social classes aside for the betterment of the community.
Instead, the game’s atmosphere was muted with fewer people in attendance and those who were forced to abide by a clear bag purse policy, and no hooded sweatshirts and or jackets allowed. Metal detectors were installed and local law enforcement was stationed inside the stadium.
Why? Because the week prior shots were fired off during the Ville Platte High School Jamboree. In Ville Platte, violence was avoided but that wasn’t the case in West Baton Rouge Parish.
During halftime of the Sugar Cane Classic between Brusly and Port Allen High, a teenager made the fateful decision to shoot two people at a concession stand. The whole aftermath was captured on a live stream of the game on Cox Sports.
The rest of the contest between the two rivals was called off and the precious life of 15-year-old Ja’Kobe Queen was snuffed out. His death will leave his family, friends, and classmates shaken forever. The night of bloodshed will forever haunt everyone involved, and that includes 18-year-old Jarrettin Jackson II, who has been charged with second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder.
That senseless act of violence will have ripple effects for not only this season but for years to come. Metal detectors and sheriff’s deputies will become a permanent fixture at high school football stadiums across the state, as schools and parish governments will ramp up security for games to avoid a rash of violence.
It has already begun as Natchitoches Central has announced it has partnered up with the Natchitoches Parish Sheriff’s Office to use metal-detecting wands at games. There have been similar procedures installed at games throughout southwest Louisiana, including Lafayette Parish.
Those idyllic Friday nights when entire families would go on to cheer on their alma mater or their son strapping on the helmet or their daughter cheering from the sidelines are now gone. Those days are over and are now regulated to country songs and TV dramas.
If we are honest with each other this had been trending that way for a while but high school sporting events were the last bastion of hope for people to act with kindness to one another. Those events served as a refuge from the terrors of the modern world where we have to be cautious of shootings, bombings, and other heinous acts of violence.
Now those games will feel like any other event you attend — one with heightened armed security that will quietly be serving as a reminder that you aren’t as safe as you once were.
This is our new and somber reality and high school football will not be the same.
Raymond Partsch III is the co-host of “RP3, D-Loh & Meche” which is broadcast weekdays (11-1) on ESPN 103.7 Lafayette and 104.1 Lake Charles — Southwest Louisiana’s Sports Station.