Probably more than most of their New Orleans-area counterparts, football players from McDonogh 35 had high hopes for the 2005 season. They had young up-and-coming players, a number of talented returning starters and a respected coach in Wayne Reese.
The players for this magnet school in Orleans Parish thought they could make a deep run in the Class 4A playoffs. Then, as the story often says, came Hurricane Katrina.
Players and coaches were displaced and strewn across the country, literally, and before settling into new lives away from "35". But on Jan. 17, 2006, the school reopened and former players and their families have trickled back. That fact was driven home with seven of McDonogh 35's top players, along with Reese and assistant coach Frank Daggs, making the trip to Rivals.com Junior Day on Saturday at the University of Southern Miss.
Players on hand for McDonogh 35 included talented brothers Delvin Breaux (6-0, 180) and Lionel Breaux (6-0, 183), who both have offers from Ole Miss. Also, there was Alfred Reese (5-7.5, 218), son of head coach Wayne Reese, Terrence Moore (6-3, 274), Robert Hammond (5-7.5, 173), Eric St. Amand (6-1.5, 210) and Brandon Theard (5-8.5, 169).
The Breauxs and Reese were displaced to Baton Rouge and played for Southern Lab last season. Hammond and Theard were at Northside in Lafayette, Moore played at Spring High in Houston and St. Amand played at Frisco in Dallas. In addition to those, other players – mainly seniors – played at Tara and Istrouma in Baton Rouge and schools as far away as Nebraska, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and even Massachusetts.
"We had a lot kids on playoff teams or made all-league," Reese said. "The other night, when John Ehret won the (Class 5A basketball) title, we had (former player) Carl Cobbins on that team."
A good chunk of the juniors are now headed back across the Crescent City Connection and the West Bank.
"Before the storm, our team was pretty closely knitted," Reese said. "When the storm came, the kids missed something they enjoyed, so as soon as the school board decided to let us open, it was no problem for our kids to come back. The only problem we have in New Orleans right now is housing. We have some kids who want to come back, but they have no where to stay. They have the jobs, but they don't have the housing. Between now and August, as soon as their parents find housing then they will be back."
The top players back without question are the Breaux brothers.
"I'm a little more physical," Delvin said. "I'm a little faster," Lionel chimed.
"He's just a pure athlete," Reese said of Delvin, who missed most of his junior season after fracturing his tibia in the first game. "He's the type of kid that can go to both levels. He's a true corner. He can play that press coverage; he can jam you. He's going to beat you up so bad you don't want to play against him. He can return punts, throw the ball as a quarterback, he can be a wide receiver."
Lionel – who is actually one year older than Delvin – recently ran an 800-meters time of 1 minute, 54 seconds, which Reese said is the second fastest time in the country right now. He was an all-district wide receiver for Southern Lab, which narrowly lost to eventual Class 1A state champion Evangel Christian.
"If any college has sense, they wouldn't take one without the other," Reese said. "They feed off each other."
"My daddy would prefer us to go to the same college," Delvin said. "But whatever happens, happens," Lionel added.
"We are talking to Auburn, LSU," Delvin said, "a coach from UCLA, Michigan, Texas Tech and Ole Miss."
Reese said that Moore, a defensive lineman, should get some looks from Division I-A colleges because of his size and athleticism, not to mention a 3.7 grade point average.
Reese's son, Alfred Reese, should also be recruited.
"My son is an inside runner," Reese said. "So they can call a lot of ISOs. That's the kind of kid he's going to be. He runs track, runs the hurdles, and he knows the game."
Reese said that Grambling and Southern are already well aware of his players. He thinks other state colleges should take notice as well.
"We have some that might not look as big, but, heck, when it comes down to the thing that counts, they get it done," Reese said. "And the other thing is, they are decent students."