By Andrew Alexander
The LHSAA football playoffs kicked off last weekend with teams all over the state battling to advance one step closer to the state championship game in New Orleans. Coming off of a bye week in the Division I bracket, fourth-seed Catholic High School begins its postseason this weekend against Brother Martin in the quarterfinals Friday.
DIG caught up with CHS coach Dale Weiner, who dished on his Bears, modern day high school recruiting, the decision to split up the playoffs and much more.
DIG: What sets this season’s team a part from your previous 27 squads at Catholic High?
Dale Weiner: I’ve been blessed to be around some really good teams, and every team is unique. I’d say one of the things that is the hallmark of this team is their dedication to hard work. They have really invested themselves in working hard in preparation for this season. They’re a team that we very seldom have to get on about effort because the effort has been there and continues to make us proud.
DIG: How has managing the recruitment of some of your high profile players such as running back (and LSU commit) Derrius Guice changed since the days of Warrick Dunn in the 1990s?
DW: Whether they are high-profile or not, because of recruiting services, recruiting lists and rankings, 24/7 talk radio, blogs and social media, it’s gotten a lot more complicated. You really fight to keep a guy focused on team because individuals are singled out so much for conversation now. When I was in high school, after national signing day, you’d get a list in the newspaper of the LSU signees. There were no feature articles or television announcements. Recruiting was just another back page story, and it was not a big deal. Now recruiting has its own industry. It’s just made it tougher to keep a guy grounded, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a high-profile guy or just a run-of-the-mill high school football player, they all could be news for a day.
DIG: What are some of the best and worst game memories for you over the years at Catholic High?
DW: My best memories were being with my son Neil (now the head coach of The Dunham School) and having the opportunity to coach him. His senior year we had one of the most significant victories we’ve had since I’ve been at Catholic High. We played Carencro, led by Kevin Faulk, and Neil had a big part of it and had some big plays in the game. That’s something I’ll always remember and cherish. Obviously, we’ve had some incredible come from behind wins. In 2009 we’re down 28-7 in a quarterfinal game versus Acadiana and came back to win it. I don’t think there’s a single worst memory, but a couple of the tough state semi-final losses stick out. You’re so close to playing for a state championship. We went to Acadiana in 2006 with a great football team and lost 20-18. Coaches hate to lose, and it’s a shame, but we tend to remember every detail of losses.
DIG: What are your thoughts on the decision to split the LHSAA football playoffs into “select” and “non-elect” classifications?
DW: I think it fractured our association. To me it is disturbing that we got to a point where, in my estimation, there was this assumption that if you were a non-public school any success you had was placed under scrutiny. The vast majority of schools, public and private, follow the rules to the letter. There are always a handful of schools, public and private, which do not. I think the restructure because of that was a mistake, and I think it really did cause some fracturing of the organization that was unnecessary.
DIG: In your 40th season of coaching, what’s been the key to your longevity?
DW: I love what I do, and I don’t know that I know how to do anything else. I love being around these guys and Catholic High is a very special place. It’s a calling and God led me to this. The opportunity to work with the brothers of the Sacred Heart has been great. The students, players and people just kind of keep you motivated. My dad taught me a long time ago that when you get up in the morning and look forward to going to work, you’re where you are supposed to be, and that’s how I feel about Catholic High School