Both have been coaching high school football for more than two decades, so it’s not surprising the Calvary’s Rodney Guin and Newman’s Nelson Stewart have met before.
But the interesting part is where they met for the first time – Orlando, Fla.
No, it wasn’t like they had a chance meeting at the airport or Disney World. It was football-related; just not at the high school level.
In 2017, the NFL allowed all of the players who were selected for the Pro Bowl to bring their high school coach as a guest.
Odell Beckham, who was a New York Giant at the time and making his third straight appearance, brought Stewart, who had coached him when he played for the Greenies from 2008-10.
Dallas Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott brought Guin, who was his high school coach at Haughton.
That was the first meeting between Guin and Stewart. They actually met again a year later in a real game – we all know the Pro Bowl doesn’t qualify as a “real game” – when Calvary, where Guin took over as head coach in 2017, met Newman in the 2018 Division III state quarterfinals. The Greenies won that game 31-28 at Jerry Barker Stadium.
Stewart and the Greenies will be making that trip again tonight when the two teams meet. This time, there’s a little more at stake – a berth in the Division III (Select) state finals.
No team reaches the semifinals of the state playoffs without having talent, and even though the top four seeds in the bracket all reached that mark (St. Charles and University are the other two), there is the perception that the Division III semifinals consist of three teams … plus Newman.
The Greenies come into the game as a decided underdog, which Stewart readily acknowledges.
“No doubt,” Stewart said. “And we are fine with that. The lights are on those (other three teams) for a reason.”
Perception or reality? You decide.
Calvary is 12-0 and the top-ranked team in the Class 2A state poll throughout the season. There is everything to like about what the Cavaliers have accomplished this season when you consider the opponents, the margins of victory and the assembly of talent. Even Guin has said on a number of occasions during the year “We’ve played well every game this year.” That’s a rare quote from any coach.
St. Charles is the top seed and just so happen to be the two-time defensive Division III state champions. Check this out: Teurlings Catholic is a semifinalist in Division II. St. Charles beat them by four touchdowns. The Archbishop Shaw Eagles are another D2 semifinalist. St. Charles beat them too. And by the way, St. Charles has already beaten Newman 28-0.
University Lab is, well, University Lab. In the last 10 years, the Cubs have played in the semifinals every year and won state titles in 2014, 2017, 2018 and 2021. U-High plays in Class 3A during the regular season and has wins over Catholic (a semifinalist in Division I) and, if it counts for anything, has a win over Parkview Baptist by a wider margin than Calvary.
“We are just focused on ourselves in trying to get better each week,” Stewart said. “If you call us underdog, that’s fine. Calvary and St. Charles are 12-0 for a season and University’s only loss is to Rummel (a Division 1 semifinalist). Yeah, most people are focused on them. We don’t really talk about it, but that’s a fair narrative.”
This is Newman’s second trip to North Louisiana this year. The Greenies played at Benton during the third week of the season and won 37-27 in a game that wasn’t near that close (Newman led 23-0 at one point).
Stewart said there isn’t much difference in his team now that it was 11 weeks ago.
“When you are 14 weeks in (to the season), you have to stay true to who you are,” Stewart said. “We just have to stay focused on ourselves. We’ve worked hard and developed a good game plan. We just got to get up there (to Shreveport) and play tough football. That’s the key.”
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