Prep notebook: Red River bids farewell to evacuee

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 31, 2005

Coaches and players welcomed John VanRysseghem to the team at Red River and wanted to leave him with something positive before he went back home.

VanRysseghem wanted to one-up everyone. He wanted to play the absolute best he could in his last game with the Bulldogs.

Displaced by Hurricane Katrina, VanRysseghem arrived at the Bulldogs’ fieldhouse without much more than a desire to continue playing after the storm put the season on hold for his school in Pearl River. After Friday’s win over Ferriday, everyone bid farwell to the new guy as he prepared to go home Saturday morning.

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&8221;I love these people and love the coaches,&8220; said VanRysseghem, who lined up at defensive tackle in the team’s 34-13 win over Ferriday. &8221;They’ve treated me like a friend. I’d love to stay, but my family needs me back home down south.&8220;

It was a happy ending to a tumultuous month for the teen-ager, who first arrived at a shelter in Houston before arriving in Red River Parish to stay with his sister-in-law’s family &045; he had no immediate family in the Coushatta area &045; while enrolling at the school.

He joined the team, started working out, learned the system and got a chance to start up froint on the defensive line Friday night.

&8221;He stepped in and did a terrific job,&8220; Red River head coach Reginald Prealow said. &8221;I’m real proud of him after what he had to go through. We did what we could do to help out in a tragedy. We’ve got people displaced all over the U.S., and I hope and pray everyone can get back to some sense of normalcy.&8220;

The move was tough on VanRysseghem, but the football team helped make the transition as easy as possible. He’s pitched in during previous games and helped the Bulldogs improve as a football team.

They came into Friday’s game 3-2 with a win over Davidson since his arrival. Friday was his first game to start.

&8221;The guys accepted him right away,&8220; Prealow said. &8221;He was like one of the guys. He just fit right in, and everybody knew his situation. Everybody tried to help him any way we could.&8220;

The team helped him go home with one last good memory as things get back to normal for schools in St. Tammany Parish and the entire New Orleans area. Pearl River got its third game of the season in Friday night in a 40-13 win over Christian Life for its first win of the season.

But wearing blue and gray Friday night and playing in a different defense, VanRysseghem had fun playing football.

&8221;This and Booker T were probably my best games,&8220; VanRysseghem said. &8221;They came with it and didn’t have much respect, and we got it at the end. They always draw the weaker team in the homecoming game so that they can win. I’ll go back and tell my family about this win.&8220;

QB BATTLES &045; The talk before Friday night’s game was Red River quarterback Al Lewis was awfully similar to Ferriday counterpart Terrence Johnson. In the end, Lewis showed he can do a number of things in the offense and had the better night of the two quarterbacks.

Lewis was a threat on sweeps and also hurt the Trojans with the passing game. Johnson wound up splitting time with Kendric Harris while completing three passes for 58 yards.

&8221;We hadn’t played anybody like our quarterback,&8220; Ferriday head coach James McFarland said. &8221;I said he was just as good as (Johnson), but I may have to go back on that. We just didn’t play well. It was one of those games where if it can go wrong, it will go wrong. We’ll play better next week &045; I’m sure of it.&8220;

Lewis, a senior, connected on 11 of 14 passes for 208 yards while breaking away on a 10-yard touchdown run around the right side for the Bulldogs’ first score. He helped the offense convert on key third downs &045; including two third downs and one fourth down on the team’s first scoring drive.

In the second half his 13-yard run on third and short moved the chains before he hit Clifford Jones on a 20-yard pass for a touchdown.

&8221;He’s an all-state player, first team,&8220; Prealow said. &8221;He’s the leader of our team. He’s stepped up for us this year. I hope he gets a chance next year and continues to perform. He’s so athletic and can play defensive back or wide receiver. You put him there, and he’ll do it. He might not be the prototypical quarterback height-wise, but he can throw it. He can do it all.&8220;

MORE INJURIES &045; Pity the medical staff at Vidalia High School. The Vikings’ sideline looked more like an episode of M*A*S*H than a high school football game on Friday night, as at least three players hobbled around on crutches.

Senior Tony Godbold was the most notable of the injured players, as he returned to campus for the first time since suffering multiple fractures in his left leg in an Oct. 1 loss to Jena.

Godbold said he underwent two surgeries to repair the damage, and he’s already planning his return to athletics.

&8221;I’d love to be back for our final football game, but realistically I hope to be back for baseball season,&8220; said Godbold, who played fullback and middle linebacker.

Versatile running back/receiver Jordan Brewer also didn’t play in Friday’s 21-6 loss to Farmerville. Brewer also has a leg injury.

&8221;We’ve lost more than half of our backfield,&8220; Vidalia coach Dee Faircloth said.

To make up for the losses, Jacob Jordan &045; wearing No. 52 &045; lined up at fullback against Farmerville.

Josh Bean contributed to this report.