The Written History
In the ensuing pages and paragraphs, you see will see the history of football in Leesville. This history was crafted through the review of news accounts, yearbooks, and individual knowledge of the sport in the City of Leesville, primarily at Leesville High School. The history is generally told in the context of decades or periods of time. Much research could still be done, and any help in correcting or adding to this story is appreciated. There is no agenda, other than to chronicle the story of Wampus Cat football. Many names and accomplishments are listed, as are coaches. Maybe someday, we’ll have a list of every player, coach, and manager. Right now, we have what we have and we are including what will best tell this story. No one and no record was intentionally skipped.
Little information is available on football in Leesville prior to 1929. The earliest reference to football and the City of Leesville actually goes back to 1907. Louisiana State University’s (LSU’s) All Time Letterman list contains the names of a Williams “Buffalo” Lyles and Pleasant Ferguson, both of whom lettered for LSU in 1907. Another person identified as a Leesville native was Wee Willie Wintle, who lettered in 1921 and 22. Mr. Ferguson was an attorney who passed away in 1931 and his old Vernon Parish name leads the author to believe that he was, in fact, a Leesville native. There’s no information on what year he might have graduated from a high school in this area. Very little information is available on Mr. Lyles. Mr. Wintle passed away in 1967 and his head-stone in Fort Worth indicates he served in World War I. Little more is known on any of these men.
1907 LSU Tigers
The first games recorded for Leesville playing football goes back to 1910, in our inaugural meeting with Deridder. In the early years, prior to the establishment of a mascot called “Wampus Cats,” the team from Leesville is noted as playing against DeRidder a number of times and against other teams in this area. Leesville had games against Hornbeck, Florien, and Glenmora. Something caused football to come to an end in 1922, but ground truth on why the school stopped playing the sport is undetermined. In 1920, there was a shooting after a game in Glenmora, when two Leesville residents got into a fight over expenses related to the game. One of the residents died, and the other, whose name was listed in the press at “Mr. Henry Beason” was investigated but not charged in the murder. At any rate, football stopped in 1922 and re-commenced in 1929. Beason was listed in the news as the Assistant Principal of Leesville High School and the “manager” of the football team. A coach by the name of Beason appeared as the school’s head coach in the 30s.
1929 to 1944: The Early Years
In the fall of 1929, the Wampus Cats suited up for the first time. Leesville native and son of Vernon Parish Sheriff, W.C. Turner, was the first coach. As the story goes, Coach Turner paid for the team’s uniforms and equipment in this inaugural season. The team initially had some success, going 5-3-1. In ensuing years, for whatever reason, Turner served as 1907 LSU Tigers an assistant coach, and W.H. Beason became the coach of the Leesville team. For 2 – 3 years (30 – 32), the team was referred to as the “Bobcats”. Beason’s team was successful through the mid-30s, with no losing records identified. There was little data available for the 1932 season, however. Some key players of this era were the Fertitta brothers, Sam, Fatty and Anthony, Fred Rowzee, Julien Stevens, Jake Armes, Percy Cabra, Buddy Hadnot, Bill Anderson, Louis Moses, and others.
In the mid 1930s, the team came under the guidance of a coach named Wood Osborne, and Osborne led the squad through roughly 1944. Little info is available on the teams in 42 and 43, but it is assumed Osborne remained with the squad. Some of the prominent players in this era were Alfred Dunn, TB Porter, Captain CA Hughes, Bobby Pinchback, Johnny Moses, Carl Babin, Glen McRae, Mickey Cohen, Kemp Tucker, Derry Smart, Cotton McClure, and John Sepeda. In 2019, TB Porter would be inducted into the LHS Sports Hall of Fame. The World Champion Cowboy was also inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in the same year and into the National Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2015.
During the induction of Mr. Porter into the LHS Sports Hall of Fame, the famed Leesville native told the crowd that the football program was so poor that players had to share cleats. When the offense came off the field, the players took off their cleats and gave them to the defense to wear. He said that he didn’t have to take his off, however, because he was a two-way player, plus he played in the band for the half-time show.
Presumably because of the US involvement in the Second World War, football was abandoned for the 1944 season, but re-started in 1945. The town again turned to Coach Turner as he organized the Cats and was the head coach for a brief time.
Post World War II
The period after World War II has some holes in the records, but not many. The teams saw no winning records in the years 45 -50, but football was back. In 1949, Zolon Stiles was hired as head coach and he put the Cats back on a winning track. Pat Riser was hired as coach in the early 1950s, and he directed his teams to some very impressive winning records.
The 1950s would usher in a number of firsts and renowned moments for football in Leesville. In 1951, Ted Paris became LHS’s first athlete to be named “All State” and was signed to play at LSU. While at LSU, Paris would earn three varsity letters, playing both on offense and defense for Coaches Gaynell Tinsley and legend Paul Dietzel. At the end of the 1951 season, a local booster club held a banquet for the successful team, which went 8-4 on the year. One of the merchants (Cain Motor Company) was so enamored with Paris’ play and accomplishments that they gave him a watch that contained “21 jewels”.
In 1951 and 52, the Cats saw their first post season play. In consecutive years, Leesville traveled to Oakdale to play in what was called “the Hardwood Bowl.” The Bowl was a tournament of sorts, with Oakdale acting as the host. In one year, the Cats played a single game, and in another year, they played two games. No wins were notched, but Leesville went into a post season environment for the first time. As an aside, research indicates that the good people of Oakdale felt slighted by not being invited to what then amounted to the State playoffs, and decided to host their own, post season activities. The 1952 team recorded nine wins on the season, with five losses.
Pat Riser was hired as head coach in 1952 and would lead the Cats to a number of successful years. Riser’s team just missed a playoff spot, going 7-3 in 1954. 1953 was a banner year for the Cats as a 14-year losing streak to DeRidder was broken. A number of the stars from the mid-50s included James Coburn, George Fisher, Jerry Skinner, Harles Smart, Edwin Smart, Jerry Gregg, Bucky Tuminello, Wallace McRae, TL Berry, Dick Berry, Kenneth Magee, Lynn McClain and Julien Stevens, Jr. Coburn was a 1,000-yard rusher in 1954 and played for a year on LSU’s freshman team.
The late 50s were led by Coach Dalton Faircloth, who had some success and near misses in terms of making the post season. Faircloth’s 1958 squad went 9-2 and were led by LHS’s second-ever All State performer, Robert Pynes, Sr. Pynes also was a signee of LSU. Johnny Hall, John Simonelli, Doug Marshall, Sam Piranio, Joe Scogin, Chris Bagents, Billy Lewis, and John Terry were some of the stars from these years. At the conclusion of the 1959 season, the Cats returned again to Oakdale for an unofficial post season game, this time in the “Lions Club Bowl” against the Oakdale Warriors. The decade ended with the return of Leesville’s most famous player to date—Ted Paris. The 1952 LHS grad and LSU letterman accepted the job as Head Coach prior to the start of the 1959 season.
Sports history books are replete with examples of great players who simply were not great or even good coaches. There are also many examples of great coaches who never played the games they went on to the coach. The case of LHS and LSU great Ted Paris returning home to coach turned out just as the townsfolk and fans would have hoped—a venture into success that was unprecedented to that time.
Paris’ teams were always competitive, with the first few years teetering in the .500 percent range. By his fourth year, he had built a program that would finally push the Cats over the edge and into the high school playoffs. One of the stars of those years was George Smith, a star running back who would gain over 1,000 yards in 1961 and go on to star at Tulane University.
The roster of the 1963 team was filled with great players and achieved something none other had done—a district title and a berth in the State Playoffs. Coach Paris’ team had great players such as Paul Nicholas, RJ Fertitta, Roy Trahan, Richard Schwartz, Ronald Holsomback, James Well, Billy Salim, and John Martinez and Jackie Self. The first ever playoff game in LHS History was played at Wampus Cat Stadium, on Saturday, November 23rd, 1963. Leesville lost to their rival DeRidder, a week after beating the Dragons in the season finale. Some controversy had swirled around the fight for the Hooper Trophy in the regular season, as Deridder was accused of playing its second string, anticipating a playoff the ensuing week. DeRidder came into the regular season game with a record of 8-0-1, and upon losing, added a blemish to their season mark, while the Cats moved their record to 9-2.
1963 District Champions
The Dragons would get their revenge the following week, beating the Cats 34-19 in front of what was probably the largest crowd in LHS History. Portable benches were brought in from Fort Polk and placed in the end zones to allow for the overflow crowd. This game was recorded on tape and maintained and has been digitized. It can be viewed on Youtube. In the game, Richard Schwartz threw 2 touchdowns to John Martinez and running back sensation Paul Nicholas scored the other touchdown on a short run. Nicholas gained over 1,000 yards on the season for the Cats.
Sadly, both Martinez and Nicholas would lose their lives in Vietnam, both as Marines, and both in 1967. Future State Representative and fellow Wampus Cat player James Armes, a member of the class of 1969, had Highway 171 in Leesville re-named in Paul Nicholas’ honor in 2016.
RJ Fertitta from the class of 1964 played for Louisiana College and earned multiple years of All-District, All-Region, and Honorable Mention All-State honors.
History has many peculiar intersections and the first LHS playoff game had more than one. The game was actually played on a Saturday, because US President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated on Friday, November 21 and the Fri-day game was delayed. Further, on the day that LHS’s loss was reported in the local media, the Vernon Lions’ State football Championship was being reported. The articles appeared next to each other. Coach Foster Thomas’ Lions would win four state championships during his time at Vernon. Carl Howard was listed as the star of the Lions in 1963. According to the Leesville Leader, Carl had touchdown runs of 68 and 25 yards for the undefeated Lions in the championship game.
In the ensuing year (1964), the Cats also made an appearance in the playoffs. Coach Paris’ team compiled a 4-4-2 record and were included in the post season. Jimmy Skinner, Billy Salim, Don Jackson, Keith Carver, Dickie Bailies, Roger Causey, Larry Jeane and Dwayne Palmer were some of the stars of the 1964 team. The Cats traveled to Eunice and experienced a first round loss.
Coach Paris’ tenure as a player and coach were honored in 2014, when he was installed as a mem-ber of the Leesville High School Sports Hall of Fame; his name resides on a bronze colored plaque at the en-trance to Leesville High School.
The remainder of the 60s saw a number of solid teams and Leesville experienced success, but the period would also ring in a long drought of playoff appearances, yet again. The 1966 4-4-2 Wampus Cat team was in a playoff hunt until the last game of the season and lost a heart breaker to Natchitoches to keep the team at home. The 1968 and 69 teams were also “near misses” and fell out of playoff contention in the last or second to last game of the year, with both teams notching 7 wins on the season. Some of the other stars from the 60s included Doug Goldsby (who played for Northwestern), Jack Ashfield (Northwestern), John Driscoll (who played for McNeese), Thad and Dickie Bailes, Ronnie Morrow, Jimmy Funderburk, Wayne Cavanaugh, Jimmy Auvill, Quarterback Donnie Gill, Dennis Kara-males, Darwin Davis, Vic Ortiz, Joe Gendron (who played for Tulane) and Bobby Craft.
The 1970s ushered in a new era of LHS football. The fall of 1970 would see the Cats playing on a truly integrated team. In November of 1969, Vernon High School and Leesville High School were merged into a single school and the Parish was integrated, as per Federal mandates. The tumult of those days is a topic for another historical page, but let it suffice to say here that the inclusion of African American athletes forever changed and improved the landscape of Wampus Cat football. The 70s brought no victories over DeRidder and no playoff appearances for the Cats. For the entire decade, the Cats scratched out only two winning seasons (1972 and 1977).
Despite the shortage of wins, LHS football in the 70s was an exciting and intense brand of football. In the early 70s, the Mapu brothers (Jimmy, Raymond, John, and Jackson) roamed the field and sidelines and All District teams for what seemed like years. Lorenzo Garner, in the first class of Vernon-Leesville students to go all four years at Leesville High School, was a star and exciting running back. Garner would be the first Afri-can-American athlete to earn “All District” Honors as a Wampus Cat. Vernon coaching legend Foster Thomas worked as an assistant for two years, making him the first African American coach at LHS. Thomas would serve many years as Assistant Principal and is credited by many for helping Leesville transition through the turbulent days of integration. A bone crushing linebacker/offensive lineman named Charlie Hanks played with Garner and was a two-way All District selection in 1972 and was signed by the University of Houston to play at the college level. Some other key players from the early 70s included Jerry Haynes, Joe and Donnie Gilbert, Paul Sliman, Glover Carter, Perry Morrow, JT Buckley and Ronald Fertitta. The coach in the late 60s and early 70s was Guy Barr.
Doug Creamer was hired as head coach in 1971 and took the Cats to one winning season in three attempts. Creamer resigned in the late Fall of 1973 and was replaced by Julius “Gerry” Robichaux. In two seasons, the Cats were 3-17 under the Cajun coach, and went 0-10 in 1975, losing to DeRidder in a downpour 50-0. Creamer and Robichaux’s teams were loaded with talent, but wins were few in the first 5 years of the decade. Julien Stevens III, Sam Fertitta, Hubert Knight, Max Antony, Mike Anderson, the West brothers (Bill and Rick), Dennis Driscoll, Ray Macias, Greg Stracner, Lou Moses, Leo Casearez, and Ralph Ortiz were key players and award winners in those days. Anderson, Driscoll, and Bill West were named all district in multiple years, as was Jimmy Mapu.
Footnote to the Class of 71: Bo Harris grew up in Leesville, but moved to Shreveport as he was starting high school. Bo was an impactful star in Junior High, playing under CA Hughes and alongside teammates Steve Woods, Bimbo West, Mike Karamales, and others. Bo grew early and was a man among boys and everyone was excited for him to get to high school. He DID get to high school, but it was in Shreveport, playing at Captain Shreve under coaching leg-end Lee Hedges. After making All State as a Defensive End, Bo signed with LSU, where he had a stellar career, playing under famed coach Charlie McClendon and earning All-SEC honors as a Linebacker in 1973. Bo was drafted into the NFL, played for 9 years, and was a starter for the Cincinnati Bengals’ in the 1981 Super Bowl. While Bo isn’t a graduate of LHS, we claim him as forever a Wampus Cat; he still comes to LHS Homecomings and can be spotted stepping into the woods to hunt turkey with Bimbo every spring.
Like Ted Paris, Richard Schwartz was a star player at Leesville and was able to return home to coach the Wampus Cats. The mess Schwartz inherited from Robichaux was turned around in two years, and the Cats achieved a 6-4 season in 1977, just missing the playoffs. Schwartz assembled a team of former star Wampus Cats and a Vernon Lion to lead the Cats for his 3 year tenure; star running back George Smith, dual threat quarterback Vic Ortiz and Vernon Lion All State quarterback Mike Mallet were assistants for the Cats, as was Rolf Kuhlow, an intense native of Germany who served as defensive coordinator.
Don Jones from Sterlington replaced Schwartz as head coach after a highly controversial move by the school board that removed the popular and successful coach. Jones had a brief tenure at LHS, being hired in January of 1979 and resigning in May of the same year. Ironically, Jones went on to greatness at other schools, earning over 300 wins as a head coach at Plaquemine, Abbeville, and Woodlawn of Baton Rouge and an induction into the LHSAA Hall of Fame. Ronnie Stephens, the former head coach at Wisner, was hired in the summer of 1979; his two-year tenure saw records of 2-8 (1979) and 4-6 (1980).
Some of the stars of the mid and late 70s included future LHS Sports Hall of Famers Terry Holt and Robert Gaines, Tommy Driscoll, Bobby Bordelon, Harles Smart, Bobby Stephens, David Smith, Terry Haynes, Michael Deans, Jim Tucker, Bruce Payton, Terry Williams, Curt Mitchell, Rod Symons, James Johnson, Mark Smith, and Steve Morrison. Holt piled up over 3000 yards rushing during his time as a Wampus Cat and signed to play collegiately with the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now ULL). Gaines signed to play with McNeese. Both Gaines and Holt were track All Americans at LHS, as well. 1980 graduate Matt Oliver played for The US Military Academy at West Point and his teammate, Tony Valen-tine Jones played for Glendale Community College.
Coach Rolf Kuhlow & Mark Smith
Schwartz & Holt, at Holt’s Hall of Fame Induction
The Big 1980’s
The decade of the 80s produced big and new things for Wampus Cat football. In the second game of the year in 1980, the Cats broke a 10-year losing streak to DeRidder. On a hot night in DeRidder, future LSU signee Oscar Joiner would return a punt 88 yards and dash 77 yards for another touchdown to lead the Cats out of the Hooper Trophy desert. The game was a big enough deal that Superintendent of Schools C. Creighton Owen allowed LHS Principal H. Lynn Russell to close the school the ensuing Monday. 1981 graduate Moe Pointer would become a letterman at Southern University and earn a tryout in the Canadian Football League.
Coach Jerry Foshee
Mark Smith & Steve Morrison
Robert Pynes 81
The spring of 1981 was a turning point for LHS football. The decade of the 80s would be an inverted image of the 70s in many ways, with winning becoming the rule and losing the exception. Jerry Foshee was hired after Ronnie Stephens was relieved in May of 1981. Foshee turned the tide quickly and enjoyed two winning seasons. The Cats went 13-7 in his two years and established themselves as a contender in AAA football in Louisiana. In his junior campaign, Oscar Joiner averaged over 12 yards a carry and pushed himself on to the national stage of recruiting as a prized running back.
Also during Foshee’s tenure was a controversy involving the Lake Charles press corps tinkering with All District selections and nominations voted on by coaches in order to justify their own nominations of a player from Jennings. Wampus Cat Melvin Maxwell was robbed of an award that probably would have catapulted him to “All State” status; Foshee was angered to the degree that he published letters to the editors of a number of papers in Louisiana, calling out the sportswriters for shenanigans. Other star players for Foshee were Robert Pynes, Jr., TJ Moore, Pat Mahoney, James Walters, Richard Scott, Maxwell, Joiner, Jimbo Shapkoff, Kevin West, David Bonner, and David Deans. Shapkoff signed to play at the collegiate level with Delta State University.
Foshee retired from coaching for health reasons in the Spring of 1983, and was replaced by Jack Andre. The first golden era of Wampus Cat football began when Andre accepted the post. Coach Andre assembled a team of coaches that would assist in some of the finest seasons in school history. Names like Tom Neubert, James Williams, Rick Wilson, Hub Jordan, Roger Causey, and Danny Smith were added to the coaching roles and they would all have lasting impacts for the school. The 1983 season saw LHS return to the playoffs for the first time since 1964.
1983 Coaching Staff
1983 Playoff Team
History always has a context and this is important to note: For many years, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association (LHSAA) post season was a scarce event. Until the late 1990s, playoff appearances were extraordinarily rare. The first two or sometimes only the first place team in a district would advance to the post season. The Cats had many winning seasons where in which they didn’t get into any official post season simply because they weren’t first or second in their district. Since the late 1990s with a power ranking system, the playoffs are still important, but much less scarce.
In Andre’s first year, the Cats went 8-3 and tied for first in the district. On a momentous Novem-ber day in 1983, the Wampus Cats won their first-ever post season game against Abbeville The team was led by Percy Burns, Sam Hoecker, Al Capello, Mark Clay, Odell Miller, Dexter Gatewood, Steve Gunn, Chris Robertson and a host other Cats who reached a pinnacle unmatched by any others since football began in Vernon Parish.
The 1984 season took a near repeat path, with the Cats tying for the district and making it to the second round of the post season. Oddly enough, the first round of the playoffs was a bye, so the Cats had a week to prepare for the second round. True fans will remember the Rayne Wolves ending the Wampus Cat playoff run by pulling off two “fumble-ruskie” plays to stun the favored Cats on the 17th of November, 1984 Andre’s team in 84 had similar and familiar names, including the standouts Hoecker and Gunn, both of whom signed to play at the collegiate level. The year also resulted in staggering offensive statistics from the ground game, with two athletes, Charles Buckley and Jeff Steele both breaking the 1,000-yard barrier. Other stars from the year included Lowell Green, Tony Phillips, Jimmy Chamberlain, Craig Pierce, Bo Cryer, Al Capello, Arnold McPherson, and Tom Crosby. Buckley and Gunn were both named First Team All State by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association.
In the early and mid 1980s, the Vernon Parish School Board and a group of citizens decided to get behind football in a new and useful way. Resources were provided from both the public and private sector and the LHS Fieldhouse was built adjacent to the Wampus Cat gymnasium and across the street from the Stadium. The “Wampus Cat” Club was reformed after several years of dormancy; some years later, the club would morph into its current state of “The Gridiron Club.” Prior to the construction of the fieldhouse, the Cats dressed underneath the stadium in make-shift dressing rooms and space-constrained workout facilities.
1985 was a landmark year for the Cats. Not only did the team win the district again, but they advanced to the quarterfinals of the LHSAA playoffs. Future LHS Sports Hall of Famer Eddie Fuller attended Leesville for a single year—his senior year—but a momentous year it was. Fuller gained over 1,800 yards on the ground and joined with Rayford Clayton to give LHS its second, consecutive year of a 1,000-yard duo in the backfield. The Cats defeated West Monroe in the first round and Huntington in the second round of the playoffs, before losing to St. Martinville in what many remember as the “fog bowl” in the quarterfinals. Roger Anderson, Earl Wallace, Mike Smith, Raymond Smoot, Nick Gatewood, Clayton, James Adams, Rob-ert Gonzales, Dickie Fetting, Vince Fuller, and Jeff Steele were standouts on the season. Eddie Fuller went on to star at LSU, and was drafted to play in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills. Of note: the selfless Steele moved from being a standout, high profile running back to the defensive backfield. Coach Andre was named District Coach of the Year.
Coach Jack Andre
Success continued in 1986 and 87. In 1986, the Cats won the district title outright and advanced to the quarterfinals, losing to Ruston at home on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Coach Andre’s team was filled with stars and intense competitors. Brian Estep and Robert Jenkins were named First Team All State; Estep signed a National Letter of Intent (NLI) to play with Tulane and Jenkins signed with Gram-bling. Other key players on the 86 team included Dennis Mitchell, Teddy Berry, Clint Batteford, Vince Fuller, Jeff Mitcham, Mike Smith, Warren Estey, Stacy Cooper, Demetrius Payton. Tony Rush, Chuck Abrams, Cliff Buckner, and Sean Mayfield. In February of 1987, Coach Jack Andre resigned and re-claimed his former position at Patterson High School. Brownie Parmeley was hired to replace Andre.
In 1987, the Wampus Cats achieved their highest win total to date, finishing the season at 11-2, again advancing the state quarterfinals. The Cats won the district and slashed through the playoffs, again falling to Ruston in the quarterfinals, only this time in Lincoln Parish, and not at Wampus Cat Stadi-um. The “program” of Wampus Cat football had become strong, achieving 7 straight winning seasons and 4 straight 10 win seasons. The 87 season saw two athletes sign with LSU (Vincent Fuller and Ray-mond Smoot), one with Northwestern State (John Mawae) and one with Northeast Louisiana (Andy Belamy). Other stars of the team included Joe Williams, Stan Watley, Wayne Martin, Andre Page, Jason Guintini. It should also be noted that enrollment at LHS in those days was heading towards a high point of 1,200 students; Fort Polk had its largest contingent of soldiers and most families in those days chose to attend Leesville when the Army brought them to Polk. These high numbers would eventually drive Leesville to be classified at the 5A level, which changed the landscape of competition.
1988 and 89 saw the Cats begin to take a step backwards. In 1988, Parmlee’s team finished at 5-5 and the 89 team finished 4-6. Stars of these years included All State performers Kevin Mawae (G) and Chip Clark (P). Other stars included Corey Thompkins, Irwin Brown, Buck Lewis, Bobby Smith and Ellis Garner. Mawae would go on to become a 4-year letterman at LSU, then spend 17 years in the NFL, playing for Seattle, the New York Jets and the Tennessee Titans. Kevin would later be named to the LHSAA Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and was also the first person inducted into the Leesville High School Sports Hall of Fame (2012).
The 1980s saw many triumphs. The Wampus Cats record for the decade was an astounding 77-34; the team participated in and saw 7 wins in the post season.
The 1990’s: Changing Landscape and a Night at the Dome
The 1990s began with a hope for a return to the glory days of the mid-80s, but the 1990 season didn’t quite work out that way. Jack Andre was hired for a second time to be the head coach but results were markedly different this time around. The Cats finished with a 3-7 record in Andre’s fifth year as the Cat’s coach. Ray Mason was a star player for the team, but literally no data is available or dis-coverable for any Wampus Cats winning any honors in the 1990 season. Andre’s second tour at Leesville was uneventful, other than an important shut out win against DeRidder and retention of the Hooper Trophy.
In 1991, long-time assistant Danny Smith was hired as the coach for the Wampus Cats. Sadly, things got worse for the Cats. Leesville went 0-10 for the season. This was the only the 2nd time since 1929 that the Cats had a winless season, the other being in 1975. Unlike 1975, when the School Board gave up on the head coach (Juluis Robichaux), leadership in Leesville decided to stick with Smith, and it proved to be a wise decision. Kavika Pittman was a genuine star in the 1991 season, earning All District MVP and Honorable Mention All-State honors. Pittman would sign with McNeese, have a stellar career and go on to a 9-year career in the NFL. Other key players on the team were Tyrone Smith, Ronnie Snapp, Heggie Smith, Rodney Gardner, Antoine Shaw, Derrick Smart and Ellis Gard-ner.
Coach Danny Smith
An important point about the 91 season was the LHSAA forcing Leesville to move up to play at the 5A level. In those days, the LHSAA computed classification size by using a two year average of enrollment. In the ensuing year, LHS’s population went down significantly as the 5th Infantry Division was moved out of Fort Polk and the force size was cut by roughly half.
In 1992, the cats went 2-7 and 0-4 in their 5A district. On the upside, Leesville won the DeRidder game, claiming the Hooper Trophy on the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the award. Of note during the year was the leadership at Fort Polk intervening on behalf of LHS by leading a party down to the LHSAA Headquarters to explain the complexities and error-riddled way that classification methods were hurting schools in military communities. Garrison Commander Thomas Tucker flew to Baton Rouge with LHS Principal Billy Crawford and appealed to the Association to change rules, which allowed Leesville to re-classify back to 4A. In 1992, key Wampus Cat players included Anthony Gill, Mike Fuller, Derrick Smart, Tyrone Simms and future LHS Principal Mark Mawae.
In 1993, the Cats achieved a 6-4 record in the regular season and finished in a 3-way tie for the district title. Due to tie-breaker rules, LHS won the district. In the playoffs, Leesville defeated Pineville 39-7 in the first round. Sophomore sensation Cecil Collins ran for 221 yards on 19 carries to a sold-out Wampus Cat Stadium.
Leesville bowed out in the second round to the Abbeville Wildcats but the stage was being set for real excitement in the next two years. Other key players for the year were Andre Middlebrooks, Andre Mageo, Matt Morrow, Willie McNutt, Alton Harris, C-Micah Wilson, Tyrone Sims, Lawrence Powell, Mark Mawae, Jason Collions, Clinton King, Joe Rosen, and Anthony Ford LHS was re-classified to 4A.
For 1994, the season record was 7-3 and LHS tied for champions of the District. The black and gold finished the year ranked # 10 in the Louisiana Sports Writer’s Association poll. Cecil Collins finished his second year rushing for over, 1,000 yards and was on the All State team for the second year. In the playoffs, the Cats beat Haughton in the first round and Collins recorded 230 yards on the ground. Perpetual nemesis Wossman eliminated the Wampus Cats in the second round. Other stars for the season were Andrew Mageo, Matt Morrow, Antountel Goza, Shermaine Jones, Anthony Ford, Dennis Fetting, Matt Glasper, Virgil Ruffin, Andre Middlebrooks.
1995 was a year for the record books. The Wampus Cats would go 13-2 on the year and make their first and still the only appearance in the State Championship game. Coach Danny Smith’s Cats ran through the first four rounds of the playoffs with little trouble, trouncing Opelousas, Carroll (Monroe), DeRidder, and Breaux Bridge. Salmen of Slidell defeated the Wampus Cats soundly in the State title game, but the year was a great success. Cecil Collins was named “Mr. Football” for the year in Louisiana and finished his career with a 3,000 yard senior year and almost 8,000 yards for his career at a Cat. Cec-il would sign a scholarship with LSU and would go on to burn brightly, but briefly in the SEC. Collins had a brief time at McNeese and was drafted by the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. Collins stands to this day as the greatest, most successful, and most decorated running back in Wampus Cat history. Cecil remains in the top 5 all-time of running backs in the State of Louisiana.
Cecil Collins &
1995 Wampus Cats – AAAA State Finalist
But, Mr. Collins was not alone in his 1995 campaign. He was joined on the All-State team by Greg Rone, a bruising, two-way athlete who earned his All-State honors as a linebacker. Dennis Fetting also earned All-State accolades as an offensive lineman. Shermaine Jones, Robert Carter, Sig Milerski, and Ced Clemons were some of the other key players on the 95’s squad. Clemons would go on to play at Tulane as a 3-year letterman and later return to LHS as a football and track coach.
Odd intersections of history occurred in the 1995 season. The Cats were able to revenge the 1963 loss to the DeRidder Dragons in the playoffs. And on the night of the State Championship game, the last remaining member of the first class of Wampus Cats—Sam Fertitta, Sr—passed away at his home in Leesville.
In the year after the state title run, the Cats fell off, but still had a winning season and made the playoffs. The senior laden team of the previous year left quite a void, but Danny Smith’s Cats kept winning. Key players in 1996 were Adrian Burns, Xavier Burrell, Mike Lewis, Wes Bailey, Greg Manns, and LeMarcus Thurman. Burrell would finish his career with over 2,000 yards on the ground and remains in the top 10 all-time of Wampus Cat running backs; Xavier earned two varsity letters at Louisville.
In 1997 and 1998, the Wampus Cats took a significant dip in terms of winning and losing. Back to back 3-7 seasons would end the career of Danny Smith as a Wampus Cat head coach. The departure of Danny Smith would be a landmark event, as he had been on staff since 1982. For the 97’s season, key players were Ronnie Robinson, Robert Carter, Andre Thurman, Dwayne Thibodeaux and Derek Jones. Thurman had over 100 tackles on the season, and Carter had 90. Quarterback Dustin Smith passed for over 1400 yards and 11 touchdowns.
In 1998, Keith Smith earned All-State honors and was signed by McNeese. Smith would become an all-conference player for the blue and gold in Lake Charles and would be drafted into the NFL and play for 8 years. Demond and Deshun McNeely were stars and both were signed by Northwestern. Other key players were Dwayne Thibodeaux, Sam Cobb, Sam Scott, and Lemond Leasure. Smith was the team’s leading tackler with 125 on the season. Deshun McNeely had over 1,300 yards rushing in 1998; he finished his career in black and gold with over 2,500 yards on the ground.
In 1999, former coach Jerry Foshee came out of retirement for a single year. The team went 4-7 and went to the playoffs, where they Cats were defeated in the first round. Some key players in 1999 included Lamond Leasure, Justin Brown, William Dudley, Kenny Jones, James White and Mark Dowden.
The 21st Century started with excitement for the black and gold. Coach Kevin Magee was hired in 2000 and took the Cats through some tumultuous and exciting times. The 2000 season saw a jaw-dropping playoff run for the team from Leesville.
Some fans and coaches disparage the “Power Rankings” system that allows for and creates a playoff system wherein which most teams over .500 gain entry. In brief, a 32 team, post season tournament is created and usually, a handful of 5-5, 4-6 and even 3-7 teams gain entry, based on a number of variables. In 2000, the Cats finished their inaugural season under Coach Magee with a 4-6 record and were seeded 28th in the group of 32. Usually, teams with losing records don’t last very long, if at all, in the post season. Coach Magee’s Cats won not one, but TWO playoff games, upsetting a #5 and a #12 seed, en route to a quarterfinal berth that was played at Wampus Cat Stadium on a cold night in Novem-ber. LHS did fall to Assumption and future NFL star Brandon Jacobs, but their wins at Walker and Woodlawn of Baton Rouge were awe-inspiring.
All Stater Justin Brown was a multi-purpose threat for the Cats and signed a National Letter of Intent to play for Northwestern State University. Brown earned All-District honors on offense, defense and as a kick returner. Other stars on the team were Kenny Hughes (grandson of 40s star and Junior High coaching legend CA Hughes), Chris O’Bryan, Tommy Edwards, Cody McKenzie, Darnell Thompkins, Kenny Jones, Lorenzo Garner (son of 73 graduate and star running back Lorenzo Garner, Sr), Roderick Lawhorn and Martin Driscoll (son of 70 graduate and McNeese signee John Driscoll).
In 2001, the Cats made the post season again, only this time, the State’s elite were waiting on the Wampus Cats. Neville ended the post season journey quickly and LHS finished 5-6 on the year. On the 2001 squad were a number of players who would go on to compete at the next level, including most prominently Keith (Alleger) Zinger. Keith would be a two time All-State tight end, making him only the second athlete (with Cecil Collins) to earn All-State honors more than once. Quarterback Martin Driscoll went on to play for Nicholls State University. Other key players in the 2001 season were Cody McKenzie Chris Nash, Dante Williamson, Roderick Lawhorn, Gilbert Francis, Josh Chaney, Darnell Thompson, Jeremy Burkes, Derek Skid-more, Casey Vinson, Marcus Johnson and Michael Toney.
The 2002 team season saw the Cats achieve a winning record and make another trip to the post season. The season also saw a first round exit, this time at the hands perennial State power John Curtis. Keith Zinger continued to gain State and national acclaim as he was named All-State for the second year; Keith had a long career at LSU, playing first for Coach Nick Saban and then Coach Les Miles. Zinger was one of only two players to play on both national championship squads (2003 and 2007). Chris White, Cordell Upshaw Josh Quayhagen, Gilbert Frances, Andy Hughes, Chris Nash, James Burkers, Michael Toney, Michael Cools, and Justin Goins were other standouts for the Wampus Cats in the 2002 season.
In 2003, the situation was similar to 2000 with the Cats finishing at 4-6, but not making the playoffs. Linebacker Josh Quayhagen was an inadvertent participant in a still fresh Wampus Cat legend; as the story goes, Josh was holding his right forearm on the sideline, wincing in pain during a timeout and one of his coaches “encouraged” him to stop complaining about pain and get back in the game. The next day, Josh was discovered to have suffered a broken forearm, but played much of the game with the badly broken bone. Key players on the 2003 squad included Quayhagen, Wes Harvey, Justin Harris, Jared James, Andy Hughes, Danny William-son, Quintiza Scott, Marcus Williams, Bernardo Henry, Tommy Neubert. Quayha-gen had 109 tackles and 3 interceptions on the season, and a broken bone.
In 2004, Magee’s Cats pulled of a 9-1 regular season, winning the district outright and drumming DeRidder 46-7 at Cecil Doyle field in Beauregard Parish. Senior quarterback and three-year starter Justin Goins had a strong year under center, throwing for nearly 900 yards and 11 touchdowns; Edwin Ivory cracked the 1,000 yard barrier for the Cats. Surprisingly, the Cats went out in the first round of the playoffs against the Opelousas Tigers. Stars for the team included Matt Morrison, Kevin McCavey, Bobby Cummings, Casey Vinson, Wes Tunnufu-Sauvo, Tommy Neubert, Larry Frank, Daryl Joiner, Mike Nelson, Jacoby Kaima, and Tyler Gill. Sauvao would go on to a collegiate career at the University of Central Florida. Josh Andrews played at the collegiate level for the University of Louisiana-Monroe.
Disruptions from Hurricanes Rita and Katrina put the 2005 season in turmoil. The annual fete with DeRidder was canceled because of the immediate impact of Rita. On the year, LHS finished 3-6 and Coach Magee resigned to take a position elsewhere at the end of the season. Justin Ford, Bernardo Henry, Frank Larry, Wes Bouves, future LSU letterman David Detz, and Brandon Sharper were some of the top Wampus Cats during the season. No playoff appearance was earned during the 2005 year.
Parish coaching icon Johnny Cryer was Leesville’s head coach for a single year, 2006. Coach Cry-er had seen many levels of success coaching around southwest Louisiana, including most prominently in Pickering and Rosepine. In his year at Leesville, the Cats had a winning record, going 6-4 in the regular season and losing in the first round of the State playoffs to Breaux Bridge. Cryer’s stars from the 2006 team included his son Josh Cryer, an all-district performer on both sides of the ball, Jacoby Kaiama, Damion Smith, Michael Harris, Cornelius Jackson, Michael Smith, David Detz and a sophomore running back named Michael Ford. In Ford’s sophomore season, he would rush for over 1,300 yards and catch the attention of coaches around the country.
The 2007 and 2008 seasons were led by Coach Terence Williams. The Cats in these two years were explosive on the offensive side of the ball and produced some of the most staggering stats ever recorded (at the time) in Leesville history. Future LSU star Michael Ford was injured for part of the year in 2007, but the Cats compensated well and achieved both a district title and a playoff berth. Trevante Stallworth shined during the year as a dual-threat quarterback, rushing for 940 yards and passing for over 1,300, including 10 touchdowns. Some of Stallworth’s targets were Allen Muse who caught 54 balls and Dejuan Taylor who caught 40 passes. Defensively, David Detz finished out his great career at LHS as an All-District and All-State honoree. Detz would become a walk-on and letter at LSU and Muse played for Arkansas State, catching nearly 100 passes in his career and earning All-Conference honors. Adron Hackett earned a sport at NSU as a walk-on, as well. Other stars from the 2007 team included Cole Parker, James Baker, Keyon Henry, Alan Harshaw, Dejan Taylor, Devin Moran, Michael Ramsey, Michael Harris, and Chris Brown.
In 2008, the Wampus Cats achieved their first 10 win game of the decade and first since 1995. The Cats won the district outright, won their first round playoff game against St Michael The Archangel, and lost in the second round to Zachary amidst questionable officiating The explosiveness from the previous year continued and on fast forward with the healthy return of Michael Ford. On the season, Ford rushed for over 2,900 yards; he put up mind-boggling numbers in single games, rushing for 448 against Tioga and 335 against Sam Houston—the top two, single game efforts in Wampus Cat history. Trevante Stallworth threw for over 1,400 yard and tossed 14 touchdowns on the season, finding Mark Demetrius and Levander Liggins as his top targets on the year. Ford and Linebacker Devin Moran both earned All-State honors on the year.
A number of Cats would go on to play at the collegiate level. Ford would sign with LSU, and have a great career, playing a key role in LSU’s national runner up team in 2011 and being drafted into the NFL. Trevante Stallworth signed with Auburn and was a 3-year letterman. Defensive back Casetti Brown signed with Louisiana Tech. Other key players were Demetrius O’Bryant, Allen Perry, Rob Saovao, Devon Brown, Tyler Anders, Michael Maldanado, Terrell Turner, Emanuel Long, Eddie McTear, Chad Parker. Michael Ford was named Offensive MVP and Devin Moran Defensive MVP and Coach Williams was named District Coach of the Year. Rob Sauvao earned a varsity letter at the University of Central Florida. Coach Williams resigned in June of 2009 and David Feaster was hired.
The 2009 season was not a winning season, but it was not a disaster. The Cats finished the regular season at 4-6 and made the playoffs, bowing out in the first round. Feaster knew the talent he inherited and began building a plan for the ensuing year. For 2009 the top players were Je’ron Hamms who signed with ULM and had a great college career in Monroe, earning a free agent contract with Saints. Tremayne Freeman signed with McNeese and later transferred to Northwestern where he earned a letter with the Demons.
Coach David Feaster
Other key players were Javal Chancy, Levander Liggins, Allen Perry, Kendrick Mitchell, Tiasham Burnett, Cody Lefort, Michael Dennis, Daniel Winnfield, and Demetrius Atwater. Quarterback Zach Squyres threw for over 2,400 yards and 26 touchdowns on the year.
2010’s: The Second Decade
The second decade of the 2000s saw some of the highest highs in Wampus Cat football history. The decade also had a few low moments, but they were overshadowed by the successes.
In his second year as head coach at LHS, David Feaster’s team set the scoreboards of local fields on fire. Feaster, known as an audacious offensive genius, brought a brand of aggressive football that fans had been craving. The Bossier native assembled a strong suite of coaches to help him guide the Cats both on and off the field. Long time assistants Robert Causey and Sed Clemons remained with the Cats and Justin Scogin, a former LHS athlete standout began to emerge as an offensive guru under Feaster’s mentorship.
The 2010 team put up never-before-seen passing number as they piled up 9 wins against only 3 losses. The Cats won the district and first round playoff game and lost in the second round to a formidable Franklinton team. Junior quarterback Zack Squyres threw for over 2,700 yards. This is not a misprint. He also tossed 26 touchdowns. His favorite target was Levander Liggins, who caught 57 passes for over 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns. For his efforts, Liggins would be named first team All-State and would receive a scholarship offer to play at Louisiana Tech, where he lettered for four years. Other offensive targets on the year were Jeval Chancey who caught 31 passes, Clinton Thurman who caught 30, and Diantay Thurman who caught 30 passes. Liggins also nearly cracked the 1,000 yard barrier on the season, reaching 978 on the year.
Other stars in this 2010 season were Jevon Leday, Bobby May, Daniel Winnfield, Demetrius Atwater, Jacob Chambers, Joe Horlacher, Dylan Gaskill, AJ Green, Cotton Honeycutt, and Logan Morrison. As a footnote: Morrison’s selection made him the third member of his household to be named an All-District Center (brother Matt (2003) and father Steve (79 and 80)).
After the 2010 season, Feaster took a job at a larger school, and Jimmy Adams was hired as the head coach; the 2011 team went 4-6. In his senior year, Zach Squyers continued to put up impressive passing numbers; the strong armed Leesville native put up 1,800 yards and 11 TDs in his senior year. Squyers finished his career at LHS with almost 7,000 yard and 75 touchdowns through the air, making him the most prolific passer in Leesville history. Without question. His favorite target on the year would be Clinton Thurman, who equaled Liggins’ single season record of 57 catches in a single season.
Some of the stars of the 2011 season included All Stater Clinton Thurman. Other key performers were Diontay Thurman, Adam Woods, Colton Honeycutt, Jeremiah Cross, Jacob Chambers, Derrick Blackshire, Juwan Lewtry, Jamall Harris, Dalton Harville, and Mason Delapp. Tight End Adam Woods earned a walk-on spot at Louisiana Tech as a long-snapper.
In 2012 and 2013, the Cats took a significant detour from success. Records of 1-9 and 2-8 were disheartening for the team and the fans. The intensity and fight by the Cats were as it always has been, but wins were few and far between and the Cats went on a 3-year drought from playoff participation. Some key players from these years were Jamal Harral, Jacob Chambers, Roger Luafelemana, Kole Smith, Elbert Marbury, Solomon Cross, Deval Lewis, Logan Kreynbuhl, Moses Tolbert, Elbert Marbury, Kory Jones, and Jonathan Price. Adams tenure ended as head coach in 2012 and Tommy Moore was hired before the 2013 season.
Tommy Moore had a three year tenure at Wampus Cat Stadium. He took the Cats to the post season one time—after the 2014 season. Leesville went 6-5 on the season and lost to Rayne on the road in the first round of the playoffs. Some of the top players during Moore’s last two years included Cory McCoy, Garrett Rogers, Kory Jones, Solomon Cross, Davion Clemons, E.J. Ane, Antonio Tharp, Jacob Adams, Dantrell Lewis, Jaelyn Edwards, Tywann Brown, Tucker Wann, and Caden Wheeler. Moore resigned in the summer of 2016, and former LHS Assistant Robert Causey was hired as the 27th coach in Wampus Cat history.
In Causey’s first year (2016), the team went 6-4 in the regular season and earned a hard fought playoff win from Beau Chene on the road, giving the Cats their first playoff victory since 2010. The season was full of ups and downs, but a seminal moment comes to mind that should be recorded for the storybooks. In the Homecoming game against Lagrange, the Cats were down 14-0 early in the 4th quarter, and pulled out a dramatic come-from-behind-win, turning the season on a dime. The Cats went on a 3 game winning streak and earned the playoff bid; more importantly, the team bought into Causey’s broader game plan. Stars from the 2016 team included: Cory McCoy, who finished his career with over 4,000 yards rushing and signed a National Letter of Intent to play with McNeese State University. McCoy would earn multiple varsity letters and an All-Conference accolades for the Cowboys. Other key players included: Elijah Mundy, Jaelyn Edwards, Jacob Adams, Daquan Davis, Andrew Croker, and Theron Westerchil.
Coach Robert Causey
The 2017 team took the District outright and compiled a 10-2 record on the season. A single blemish to Rayne in the 4th game of the year and then again to Rayne in the post season were the only losses in an outstanding season. Chris Vargas, a 3-year back up at quarterback took advantage of his single year under center and put up dizzying numbers, tossing for over 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns. Andrew Croker, a dynamic, multi-talented athlete played both ways and was a fixture in the offensive backfield and as a receiver. Cat fans can attest to the exciting game-breaker who collected 64 receptions during his career at LHS, including 39 in his senior campaign. Nine Wampus Cats would sign National Letters of Intent, including Croker (McNeese), Mackenzie Jackson (Naval Academy), Vargas (Louisiana College), and Kobe Joiner (ULL). Other stars from this team were All-State Linebacker Matt Pajinang, D’Ante Gallashaw, Matthew Anderson, Brett Pope, Michael Ciachelli, Xavier Reyes, Donald Smith, Sabian Matu, Gabe Ellis, Derek Hurt, Montae Lynch, Steven Thomas, Talyn Adams, Jordan Dowden, Demarcus McCord. Coach Causey was named Coach of the Year for the District.
The 2018 season was one for the ages. The Wampus Cats ran the table in the regular season, winning all 10 games, then won three games in the playoffs, decimating strong teams from Woodlawn and Assumption and winning a heart-stopping come-from-behind game against St. Martinville. At the quarterfinal game, the Wampus Cats went at St. Martinville like prize fighters, trading body and head blow. LHS recovered two second half onside kicks on a rainy night and on the road and pulled out one of the most dramatic wins in the school’s history. Leesville made it to the Semi-finals for only the second time in school history and won 13 games for only the second time. The Cats fell to Warren Easton on a rainy night in New Orleans but had more fans in the stands than the home team.
Coach Causey’s defensive team was led again by Matt Pajinang, and the offense was led on the field by sophomore quarterback Jacob Mount, who, like Vargas, put up eye popping numbers. The offense was dynamic, however, with D’Ante Gallashaw gaining over 1,400 yards on the year, and earning All-District, All CENLA and all SW Louisiana honors. The team was filled with talented athletes and gritty fighters. Of note in this year was the offensive line, nicknamed the “Pancake Posse”, and the focal point for giving Mount the time he needed to run Offensive Coordinator Justin Scogin’s offense The line created holes for both D’Ante Gallashaw and his younger brother, Caleb. Three of the starters on the line signed national letters of intent to play at the next level. Starting tackle Matthew Anderson was named First Team All-State and signed with the University of Nebraska. Other notable stars form the team included Montae Lynch, Duwon Tolbert, Brett Pope, Noah Allain, Khrystian Hoffpauir, Peyton Lipps, Caleb Westfall, Ben Ward, Talyn Adams, Nick Green, Darius Allen, Aaron Hunter, Ruben Jeane, Jacob Feliciano, Nigel McCoy, Darius Sawyer, and Efosa Evbuowon. Lynch and Tolbert signed at the collegiate level with Tyler Community College. Coach Causey was named State and District Coach of the Year.
Leon Hopins, Coach Scogin, Duwon Tolbert, Darius Sawyer
The 2019 season started with great promise as the Cats jumped out to a 4-0 start, and extended a regular season winning streak to 20 games, going all the way back to the Rayne game in 2017. Leesville would finish the year 6-4 in the regular season, losing close games to DeRidder and Tioga. In the playoffs, Causey’s squad got a big first round win on the road at Pearl River and came home to face the #1 seed, Lakeshore. The second round exit was painful, but the season record of 7-5 was nothing in which to find shame. Efosa Evbuowon signed a National Letter of Intent to play for Lamar University. Stars from the team included Caleb Gallashaw, Darius Sawyer, Noah Allain, Darius Allen, Quan Williams, Jacob Mount, D’Ante Gallashaw. Khrystian Hoffpauir, Steven Winslow, Christian Sage, and Chris Davis. Four straight winning seasons for Causey and playoff wins in 4 years was quite a way to end the decade.
In his time at LHS the success of Coach Causey’s teams has resulted in an in and out nature of assistant coaches. Success breeds success and success usually results in opportunities. A number of Coach Causey’s assistants have gone on to other jobs with more potential for advancement. Others have come in and brought important years if not decades of experience. Coach Mark Mawae, a skilled offensive coordinator and a member of “Leesville’s First Family of Football” was promoted to Principal of Leesville High School, where he leads with skill at this writing. Coach Ryan Russo, after several years at Leesville, took the position of Head Coach at Pickering High School, where he took the Red Devils to a first round playoff appearance; former Cat standout Logan Morrison joined Russo as Offensive Coordinator at Pickering after a 3-year stint at LHS. Former Wampus Cat star player Bo Cryer was with Coach Causey for 3 years as the offensive line and strength coach and contributed greatly to the team’s success, prior to taking a similar post at North Desoto High School.
Re-joining the Cats staff since Causey’s arrival was Justin Scogin, who studied under David Feaster for almost a decade; Scogin’s fingerprints are on every significant offensive rec-ord at LHS in the past decade. Also joining was Dan Welch, a seasoned offensive line coach from Texas who had retired to Louisiana after a 30 year successful stint in Texas. Other coach-es who have contributed to the success in the Causey years include Travis Provo, Sedric Clemons, David Wheeler, Ryan Russo, Dustin Smith, Jacob Chambers, Kyle Walter and Logan Kreyenbuhl.
First Team All-State Award Winners
1984 Running Back
1985 Running Back
1987 Running Back
1988 Offensive Lineman
1994 Running Back
1995 Running Back
1998 Defensive Back
2001 Tight End
2002 Tight End
2008 Running Back
2008 Defensive Back
2010 Return Specialist
2011 Wide Receiver
2018 Offensive Lineman
Keith (Alleger) Zinger
Keith (Alleger) Zinger
History of the Hooper Trophy – from Brian Trahan and Daniel Green
The DeRidder-Leesville football rivalry has been known as the Hooper Trophy Series since the 1962 season, and been one of many highlights and fierce games on the gridiron.
In the early 1960s, Leesville resident L.S. ‘‘Buck’’ Hooper, a graduate of Leesville High School, and his wife, Agnes Lewis Hooper, a graduate of DeRidder High School, decided to donate a trophy for the football rivalry. The Hoopers decided that the school winning the most games for every 10 sea-sons, or the first team to win six games, would take permanent possession of the trophy for its school. The winning team each year gets temporary possession of the trophy.
Leesville won Hooper Trophy I for the seasons from 1962 to 1972. DeRidder claimed the Hooper Trophy II for the years 1973 to 1979. Leesville captured Hooper Trophy III for the 1980 to 1987 seasons. DeRidder then won the Hooper Trophy IV series, six games to four. DeRidder defeated Leesville 14-12 1997 in Leesville and beat the Wampus Cats 25-7 in 1996 in Leesville.
The Hooper Trophy IV series began with two straight DeRidder wins, 17-16 in 1988 and 14-7 in 1989. Leesville won 15-0 in 1990. DeRidder scored a 16-12 win in 1991, while Leesville won 13-12 in 1992. The 1993 matchup saw DeRidder win 24-14, while Leesville would take the next two games, 28-0 in 1995 and 15-6 in 1995.
After the death of ‘‘Buck’’ Hooper, the two principals at that time — Bob McLamore of DeRidder High School and Richard Reese of Leesville High School — decided to continue the Hooper Trophy, with the two schools buying the trophy.
According to all available information, DeRidder leads the all-time se-ries over Leesville 56-39-4. During the Hooper Trophy Series, the rivalry leans in Leesville’s favor at 31-26-1. Leesville leads Hooper Series VII 3-2.Three games played since 1962 have not counted in the Hooper Trophy standings, a bi-district playoff game in 1963 when DeRidder defeated Leesville 34-19 and a regional playoff game in 1995 when Leesville defeated DeRidder 29-0, and a Leesville 34-20 win over the Dragons in the 2010 playoffs.
In 2005, the game wasn’t played when Hurricane Rita forced the teams to cancel games due to widespread damage and power outages in West Central Louisiana.
1968 Hooper Trophy
2016 Hooper Trophy
The longest winning streak for the DeRidder Dragons in Hooper Trophy Series games in nine games. That winning streak included the last two games of the Hooper Trophy I series, and all seven games of the Hooper Trophy II series. The first game of the Hooper Trophy II series was a 6-6 tie in 1973 at Leesville. The longest winning streak for the Leesville Wampus Cats in the Hooper Trophy Series is 10 games. The Wampus Cats recorded victories over the Dragons from 1998 to 2008.
During those 10 straight wins, the Wampus Cats scored 30 or more points seven times and out-scored DeRidder 345-87 during that stretch. DeRidder leads all-time series 56-39-4.
Wampus Cats Stadium & Gilbert Field Courtesy of Former LHS Principal, Billy Crawford, Class of 1964
For the last 60 years the Leesville High School complex has been located at its present address, 502 Berry Drive. Wampus Cats home football games have been played in Wampus Cat Stadium all these years.
LHS students before 1960 attended the “school on the hill” on West Texas Highway. The school building is still standing and has housed several educational purposes over these years. The Gym also stands, where basketball games were played until a new gym was built a few years later. Former Coach Billy Bennett and players during basketball season would drive over after school each day to practice.
Down the hill from the gym was Gilbert Field, where the Wampus Cats football teams played their home games from 1937 until 1960. If driving westerly down the hill in front of the gym, the vacant site is located in the left corner.
A large sign-Gilbert Field-was lighted over the en-trance. Thirty-two floodlights blazed down for the cheering crowd, making the field as light as day, and the beginning a new era of sports in Vernon Parish.
Judge Hal A. Burgess was the guest speaker for the dedication service for Gilbert Field that preceded Leesville’s initial football game of the season against St. Anthony of Beaumont, Texas. Approximately 1,000 people attended the official opening of the field, some 150 coming from Beaumont. Local attorney A. B. Cavanaugh, who was a member of the Board of Directors of the parish-wide athletic project, introduced the Judge. Giving a history from the inception Burgess gave praise to all those who had a hand in the instigation; “commended townspeople who have shown their interest in athletics and in educational promotion by standing behind the athletic board in their great building program.”
According to the Leesville Leader in 1935: “4.4 acres of land adjacent to Leesville High School owned by J.N. Gilbert and the G.R. Ferguson Estate (more below) donated the property to the town of Leesville and the Vernon Parish School Board. It was to be used and be dedicated as a playground and athletic field for the promotion of physical culture and all kinds of athletics conducted for the benefit of the public schools of Vernon Parish, providing it be named “Gilbert Field” in memory of the late J.N. Gilbert, whose heirs are the grantor of the property.”
This athletic field began as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. Mr. F.E. Hernandez, general manager of the field, directed the project. Other members of the Athletic Board were: Brown Mooneyham, President; Mrs. Joe L. Hunt, Secretary; Jean M. King, Treasurer; A.B. Cavanaugh, member-at-large. The WPA was a New Deal Program that gave employment to millions of unemployed Americans during the Great Depression (1929-late 1930’s). During its eight-year existence, WPA put some 8.5 million people to work at a cost to the Federal Government of approximately $11 billion-($215 Billion in 2020 value).
The field was not used just for football. It was used for P.E classes and hosted other events such as the Vernon Parish Invitational Softball and Track Tournaments; all High Schools in Vernon Parish were invited.
The Cats moved to Wampus Cat Stadium in 1953 and all home games have been played the venerable stadium ever since. At the entrance to the north end of the stadium is a plaque with the names of players on the squad in the Fall of 1953.
In the history of Wampus Cat football, the numbers of five players have been retired. The names and numbers of each of these stars are affixed on the Press Box of the stadium. Eddie Fuller, Kevin Mawae, John Mawae, Raymond Smoot, and Kavika Pittman are the only Wampus Cats ever to have been so honored.
The Rich History of Leesville High School
Hopefully, this book on the history of Wampus Cat football will inspire others to craft histories of other aspects of the Old School on the Hill. The school in Vernon Parish has been both an incubation center and a launching pad for many great citizens in our State and country. LHS has also been the home of many great organizations, events and served as a focal point for the entire community.
Graduates of Leesville High School have achieved positions of esteem and acclaim in State and Federal government. At this writing, two Wampus Cats are on staff the White House, one as the Chief Information Officer of the Federal government (Suzette Kuhlow Kent, Class of 1986), and one on the National Security Staff (Brigadier General Jon Howerton, Class of 1985). Army Major General Ronald Clark (Class of 1984) remains on active duty as a senior officer at US Indo-Pacific Command.
1978 graduate David Smith, a career Army officer (and former Wam-pus Cat player), twice appeared on the cover of LIFE magazine, most prominently in the middle of Operation DESERT STORM. 1951 graduate Guy Stone was the recipient of the Navy Cross for gallantry in the Vietnam War. 1980 graduate Sam Cox recently retired as a Lieutenant General from the United States Air Force.
Two Wampus Cats have served as US Congressmen (Jim McCrery, Class of 1967 and Claude Leach, Class of 1951). Carolyn Leach Huntoon (Class of 1958) was selected as the first female Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Ted Castilo , the author & Martha Palmer
Garland Riddle, LHS Class of 1967 is an Emmy-nominated costume designer who had a 30+ year in the television and movie business. Larrie King, Class of 2001, is a professor of Art & Design at Kent State. 1972 graduate Tony McDonald led a US contingent to the Havana Arts Biennial in Cuba in 2015 and was one of the first US citizens to engage the Cubans in an official art consortium. 1941 graduate Ted Castillo went on to a Hall of Fame career as a sports writer in Baton Rouge and still comes back for LHS Homecomings.
Academically, Leesville High School remains consistently ranked high in the State of Louisiana. LHS has produced graduates of all US service academies and has sent students to colleges throughout the world. Countless National Merit Scholarships have come forth from their years in the black and gold and millions of dollars of scholarships for college and technical training have been awarded to our students through the decades.
Wampus Cat athletes have achieved great things in all other sports, including basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, track and field, cross country, swimming, powerlifting, and others. Without question, the presence of the Wampus Cat Marching Band, cheerleaders, majorettes, dance line, flag lines, JRTOC and other auxiliary organizations make Leesville High School a special place.
So much history could be written on all these topics, and this author hopes others will endeavor to document what has taken place. Not mentioning or deep-diving into these topics is not meant to disparage nor take away from the other wonderful things that have taken place at Leesville High School.
Wampus Cats on The Air
One of the great joys of Wampus Cat football has always been being in the stands, primarily at home, and also on the road. The Cats have always had a loyal following, some years more than others, but there’s always a core group that will travel to games or drive over to Gilbert Field or Wampus Cat Stadium to see a game. For those who couldn’t make the games, however, the Cats have had long standing radio broadcasts that have been a fixture for the Wampus Cat family.
In 1961, a group of high schoolers from Leesville undertook the initial efforts to share the game with those who couldn’t make the event in person. Jim Hawthorne, Hanley Sanders, Len “Stevie” Stevens, and Nick Pollacia, Jr were the cadre who initiated the tradition of transmitting Wampus Cat games over the air. Hawthorne and Sanders were the film team; as the story goes, the two would take a heavy-duty tape recorder (aka “reel to reel”) to the game and record the action. The next morning, the two, along with Len Stevens and Nick Pollacia would work diligently at the station to record a broadcast that would be played at the local AM station, KLLA.
The time as make-shift broadcasters would influence the men significantly. Len Stevens would go on to become a fixture at KLFY in Lafayette. Nick Pollacia would become so intrigued that he would one day buy the AM facility (KLLA) and stand up an FM station (KJAE). Jim Hawthorne would become a hall of fame broadcaster for the LSU Tigers, retiring in 2017.
In the late 1970s, a new FM station, KVVP, would also begin broadcasting Wampus Cat games. For a period of time, both stations were transmitting the games, and there were back and forth negotiations between school officials, the radio stations, and the Vernon Parish School Board regarding who would be the primary broadcasters. Eventually, KVVP would settle into a “game of the week” paradigm and would rotate their game schedule between Leesville and the other Vernon Parish schools that play football (Pickering and Rosepine). KJAE has exclusively been a Wampus Cat broadcast agent on the air, first on AM, then on FM bands, occasionally on Saturdays but mostly live on Friday nights.
For a brief period in the mid 1990s, Wampus Cat games were broadcast over the television airwaves. Cablevision of Leesville, with long time radio broadcaster Rick Barnickle would record, play and re-play Wampus Cat games during one of the most exciting times of LHS football history. Barnickle teamed with 1950s Wampus Cat star John Coburn to broadcast the games. A number of the games are digitized and saved for viewing on Youtube, click here to enjoy the videos: Video 1 and Video 2
On the KVVP team, Barnickle was the primary broadcaster on and off over a 40 year period and was joined by a number of former players and local celebrities, including Jimmy Funderburk, Joe Pope, “B-1 Boomer” Boone and Huell Haymon. The KJAE team has seen a number of squads move in and out, with Pollacia as a primary broadcaster for many years, along with former Wampus Cat greats Bobby Craft and George Smith. In time, the broadcast teams would include the likes of Clay Tillman, Mike Anderson, Harles Smart, Sam Fertitta, Jeff Skidmore, Scott Grady, and Charles Owen. At this writing KJAE broadcasts all Wampus Cat games over the air (FM 93.5) and streaming over the internet.
KJAE/KLLA Owner, Penny Scogin
Sam Fertitta, former Wampus Cat Andrew
Scott Grady & Coach Robert Causey
Harles Smart, Sam Fertitta & Jeff Skidmore
F. Clay Tillman
Though the Cats have never won a State Title, the team is a winner, just like the city and parish are winners. For every game that is accounted for, the Cats have won 461 and lost 444. In time, we hope to fill the holes of unaccounted for and lost seasons and maybe provide a complete picture. What we have provided to date is anything and everything that is available. There are few things more exciting than a Friday night at Wampus Cat stadium and there isn’t a town or a community anywhere that loves its team more than Leesville. True fans hope for a state championship, and the truest fans will continue to flock to the old school on the hill. LHS has accomplished many things, recorded many wins, graduated many stars, many college players, produced a fair share of NFL players and a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It’s been good.
Once a Wampus Cat, ALWAYS a Wampus Cat. The story will continue!
This effort came to fruition because of the help, advice and encouragement of a lot of people.
The Bible I read tells me to acknowledge the Lord in all of my ways, so I will start with Him. The Lord Jesus saved my soul and is without a doubt, my only Lord and my redeemer. I am so thankful to all the gifts of God not only my life but in the life and existence of our country, our state, and our city.
Brian Trahan, former editor of the Leesville Leader got this project kicked off by starting the research on team and individual stats and records. I simply picked up his work and took it to a mostly full conclusion. Ac-claimed Sports reporter Daniel Green provided key inputs and thoughts on the program and I appreciate his time and assistance. Former Wampus Cat greats Bobby Bordelon and Sam Hoecker have compiled a lot of stats through the years and their work greatly contributed to Brian’s first tally and then added to my work.
My former English teacher, Tresa Abramson pitched in with important editing help. Leroy “Buster” Lambert, LHS Class of 1972 helped me with edit and some important personal memories. Nick Pollacia, Jr and Len Stevens helped me understand the origins of the KLLA and KJAE broadcasts of the games. Local broadcaster Rick Barnickle helped me piece together some of the other media stories. Former Wampus Cat Coach and Superintendent of School Richard Schwartz provided some key data points.
A litany of friends and family members helped me piece together myriad pictures that appear in these pages. I wish I could thank them all, but you know who you are. I am grateful.
My precious daughter, Emma, designed the cover of the book. I am so thankful for her time and talents!
The ones who helped me most: Every Wampus Cat player, coach, and manager who ever donned the black and gold. Every band member, majorette, flag line, dance line, drum major, and band director whoever assembled the Wampus Cat band on a Friday night to add to the great atmosphere of Wampus Cat Stadium and Gilbert Field. The cheerleaders, without a doubt! Every member of the Quarterback Club, the Booster Club and the Gridiron Club who helped support our program. All the fans who have loyally sat through good years and bad years, who have traveled to places like Franklinton, San Augustine, Mexico City, DeRidder, Many, Lake Charles, Alexandria, Shreve-port, Monroe, Rayne, Welsh, Jennings, and all points in between to cheer on our beloved Wampus Cats.
This effort and this book are dedicated to my sweet and beautiful wife and favorite Golden Cavalier Carolyn, and our adorable daughters, Laura and Emma. Long before Carolyn and I found each other, I was a Wampus Cat and an avid fan of the black and gold. Through the entirety of our marriage and as long as our girls have been around, they will all attest to my unadulterated and unfiltered loyalty to my school. I am grateful they have understood and put up with my intense passions! Our girls have strict instructions that if I pass away before the Cats go back to the State Championship, they are to go to my gravesite and listen to the game on a transistor radio (or a reasonable facsimile) and they are to take my helmet. I would instruct them to take my letter jacket to the gravesite, but I will be buried in it.
I also would like to dedicate this work to my sister, Mae Ann and her son, Joseph Creighton Ledet. My sister was a Wampus Cat in every sense of the word. She left a long-lasting mark on Leesville High School, and she departed us way too soon. Mae, too was a Golden Cavalier, and proud member of the LHS Marching Band. She was the beloved Librarian at LHS. Joseph is a good man, and I love him dearly.
Finally, I dedicate this book to my parents, Creighton and Gloria Owen, both members of the LHS Class of 1942 and the Wampus Cat Marching Band. Mom and dad were Lee-Ville people, through and through and they loved LHS.
About The Autor
The author of this book wore # 89 and played tight end for the Leesville Wampus Cats. He earned three varsity football letters. He played defense but wasn’t very good. He was also the backup quarterback. He earned four varsity letters in track and three in cross country.
The author was reared in Leesville by two Leesville High School graduates and married a beautiful member of the LHS Danceline, also known as the Golden Cavaliers. #89 has two daughters, and he is very proud of both; his daughters did not attend LHS, but they loved him enough to ensure their high school beat the DeRidder Dragons in basketball on not one, not two, not three, but four occasions. Two of the wins occurred during the high school playoffs, which made the wins all the more delectable for the adoring father.
The author is a proud veteran and retired military officer; he completed college a few times. He and his wife reside in Leesville and he attends every Wampus Cat football game he can. He also helps with radio announcing and other civic activities, including the Leesville High School Alumni Association.
#15 is Earnest Bess; #89 is the author