NEW IBERIA, La. — Artie Liuzza didn’t show any of the signs of nervousness he professed for speaking in front of large groups Wednesday, delighting a packed room with tales of his team’s lack of football knowledge at his inaugural appearance at the Iberia Parish Sugar Cane Jamboree Coaches Luncheon held at Landry’s Cajun, Seafood and Steakhouse in New Iberia.
Liuzza edged Jeanerette Senior High coach Ananias Johnson, who professed disappointment at finishing second in the voting for the third straight year for the coveted “Not-So-Sweet Award” given to the coach spinning the best tales as a preview of the upcoming high school football season for the six teams participating in Friday’s jamboree at Lloyd G. Porter Memorial Stadium.
Highland Baptist was invited to join the jamboree this season after Catholic High withdrew to participate in an all-parochial school jamboree in Lafayette.
“Obviously when I found out we were going to be in the jamboree, I was pumped, and then I found out I was going to have to get up and talk in front of everybody …” Liuzza said. “So my wife and I were at home, and she knows public speaking’s not my thing, she said, ‘Well, what are you going to do?’ I said, ‘Let me get on the phone and call (Daily Iberian assistant sports editor) Neal (McClelland). So I called Neal, I said, ‘What’s this about, what do I have to do?’ He said, ‘Well, you’ve got to make fun of yourself, say what a bad coach you are, you’ve got to say how bad your team is and say how you’re not going to win any games.’ So I got off the phone and my wife said, ‘What’d he say?’ I said, ‘He told me to tell the truth.’”
Liuzza later compared his squad to the Wizard of Oz story, which he’s reading to his young daughter.
“It dawned on me, if you come out to our practice, we’re going to look a lot like the Wizard of Oz,” he said. “We’ve got a third of our kids have no heart, a third have no courage, a third have no brain and I’m sitting around kicking myself, wishing I was home.”
The award was voted upon by representatives of the sponsors for the luncheon — The Daily Iberian and Community First Bank — and the jamboree — The Daily Iberian and Coca Cola. Profits from the luncheon are given to the United Way.
Johnson said he really didn’t know what to talk about but told McClelland beforehand his speech was going to be 20 or 25 minutes long, exceeding the 10-minute limit.
“I said, ‘When I finish, they’re going to clap, they’re going to stand up and tell me go again,’ that’s how my speech is going to be,” Johnson said. “So, when I finish my speech, the last thing I’m going to tell everybody, ‘Good luck to all coaches, and let’s show the fans a good time, a good show Friday.’ That’s the last thing I’m going to say, OK?
After a slight pause, Johnson added, “Good luck to all coaches …” drawing a strong round of applause.
Darcy Delcambre of Delcambre High, the defending champion and a three-time winner of the Not-So-Sweet Award, welcomed Highland to the jamboree, saying, “It’s great to have y’all. I just hope you stick around a little bit longer than the last school did. That’s a challenge, now.” Delcambre was referring to Catholic High, which had returned to the parish jamboree from 2011-13 after having split away a couple of years earlier to play in the jamboree in Lafayette.
Westgate coach Ryan Antoine said he has some kids who listen, and some who question everything they’re told. One, he said, wasn’t paying attention to a talk about the three D’s of defense — defense, defeat and detail.
“We want to play strong defense, we want to be able to defeat the opponent and we want to pay attention to detail,” Antoine said. “Well, he’s not paying attention, so I said, ‘Son, what did I just say? Just give it to me in a sentence.’ He said, ‘Well coach, the horse jumped over the fence, defeat come before detail.’”
New Iberia Senior High athletic director Rob Schlicher spoke on behalf of seven-time award winner Rick Hutson, who was unable to attend Wednesday’s luncheon. Schlicher asked several of the NISH assistant coaches if they wanted to speak but all declined, so he elected to speak himself.
“I went in (Hutson’s) office to try to get some inspiration for today, and right when you walk in the door of his office, he has all these plaques in a circle, all these Not-So-Sweet Awards, and in the middle he has this newspaper article (about) when we won the district championship a few years ago, and I thought that would give me some inspiration, but it really intimidated me,” Schlicher said. “It was like, ‘Do I have to win to complete the circle at the top?’ That was kind of scary for me.”
Delahoussaye, the final speaker, said he could guarantee the best wasn’t saved for last since it was his eighth year and he hasn’t finished first or second yet. Loreauville is the host school for the jamboree, which will begin at 5 p.m. Friday.
“Kind of like Coach Liuzza, I was talking to my wife — we got married this summer, that’s my thinning hair, you can see that — talking about what to talk about, because I really dread this thing, because I can’t be real funny,” Delahoussaye said. “She said, ‘Go up there and talk about your team.’”
The Tigers came up one point shy in the semifinals, he said, and a missed extra point contributed. LHS has a new kicker from South Texas, who had the coaches excited because he came from a school with no football, just soccer. But the new kicker struggled in practice.
“Coach Jamar Lewis came up and said, ‘What’s this kid’s name?’” Delahoussaye said. “I said ‘Go for two.’”