CAROLA LILLIE HARTLEY
Since this is Super Bowl weekend, here is another first for our town, this one about the game of football.
Although the game of football came to St. Landry Parish in about 1893, the first high school football team in Opelousas was the St. Landry High School team of 1900. The team was founded on October 30th of that year at a meeting of the high school boys in a school classroom on Market Street. Some members of that team included, O. P. Daly, team center; Jack Guidry, team captain, who later played for LSU; B. A. Phillips, W. Gayle and Edwin Thomas.
That 1900 team played two away games, both on weekdays, between Christmas and New Year’s Day. The first game was against Lake Charles High School, with the Opelousas boys loosing 34-0. Following the Lake Charles game, Opelousas traveled by train to Crowley to play Crowley High School. Crowley won that game 21-0. According to reports in the local and area papers, despite the final score, the game was “highly interesting and hotly fought.”
The next year the 1901 St. Landry High School football team received more community support, and it seemed that football might become a school sport in Opelousas. The members of that 1901 team, shown in the top featured photo (not in any order), included Clay Miller, Jack Domengeau, Jack Guidry (captain), Seth Young, Leonard Isacks, Fulton Young, I. Littell, Morgan F LeRoy, J. Cottingham, W. Gayle (principal’s son), and J Boudreau.
That 1901 team played several games against a variety of teams. The Lafayette Gazette newspaper of Saturday, December 28, 1901, had a front-page report of the game played the previous Saturday between the team of the St. Landry High School and the boys of the Industrial Institute in Lafayette. That school was the Southwestern Louisiana Industrial Institute (SLII), the new college that opened with 100 students in Lafayette on September 18th of that year. (SLII eventually became SLI, USL and now UL at Lafayette. St. Landry High School eventually became Opelousas High School.)
The football game between the two schools was played in Opelousas and was said to be “well played and very interesting.” According to the newspaper report, the Opelousas team had the advantage since they practiced longer and had played several other games, but the Institute team was more than a match for the Opelousas boys. The score was 6 to 5 in favor of the Institute. After that game it was announced the teams would meet again in January of 1902. That game was played on the SLII campus at Lafayette on Saturday, January 11, 1902. According to the January 18th edition of the Lafayette Gazette, it was the “first game of football played in Lafayette.” The Institute team beat the St. Landry school team by a score of 21-0.
After that 1901 football season, it seems football in the Opelousas schools lacked support for several years. One reason was a new rule that went into effect saying parents had to sign a consent form to allow their child to participate in that team sport. It was some time before the game was even played again in the town. During the 1910-decade, football was played on occasion, but only by Opelousas community teams or out of town teams playing in Opelousas. The town had no school football team again until the 1920s when the high school’s name was changed to Opelousas High School.