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Saugus athletes meet inspiration

Students meet filmmaker, coach and athlete who were key members of a documentary about Katrina

Posted: February 26, 2010 11:07 p.m.
Updated: February 27, 2010 4:30 a.m.
 

Hurricane Katrina seems so distant to some — in time and location.

But stories of the disaster have helped bring people closer to it and helped them gain inspiration from it.

Athletes from Saugus High were fortunate enough to witness one such story on Wednesday.

On Friday afternoon, in a classroom at Saugus High, the athletes were brought even closer.

The athletes, five buses full of them, were shown the documentary, “Hurricane Season — Walking on Dead Fish,” a movie about a Louisiana football team that accepted displaced players after Hurricane Katrina and came together to unite a community.

On Friday, the film’s producer and director Franklin Martin, the team’s head coach Larry Dauterive (who introduced himself as Coach Doe), and Stanley Jackson, a key player on the team and who Martin referred to as the “star” of the documentary, spoke to the athletes, further driving home the message of the movie.

“The problems this little team faced was a microcosm,” Martin said. “If this football team fought and splintered, so would the community. They ultimately came together and the school united. They ended up being the saving grace of the community.”
Because of Katrina, the community had no escape and this football team was it.

Martin explained that he originally went to Tulane University after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005 in hopes of doing a documentary on the college football team.

He was turned away and deterred. Then he met a woman at his hotel room who suggested he do a film on a high school team.
It brought him to La Place, La. where the population after Katrina ballooned to about 40,000 from 20,000.

Displaced students ended up enrolling at East St. John High in La Place, including 20 football players.

One of those players explained to Coach Doe that while the waters rushed through New Orleans after the hurricane hit, he and his mother lived on their house’s roof, surviving on toothpaste and mouthwash for food and drink.

Yet the new players created conflict as soon as they arrived onto the team.

Saugus head coach Jason Bornn, who saw the film on Wednesday, likened it to if an earthquake hit the Santa Clarita Valley and many of the football players from the other schools had to go to Saugus.

There would be competition and rivalry.

It was difficult, Jackson admitted, especially for him.

He was the team’s star running back.

Then Johnny Owen transferred in.

Not only was Owen a star running back in his own right, he was a local kid who went to a private school in New Orleans.

He is also white.

The football team was 98-percent black, explained Coach Doe. They were economically and socially challenged.

He described their difficulty by explaining how hard it was for him to look at their birth certificates.

“On some, there’d be an asterisk where the father’s name was because there was no father and the mother’s birth age would be 15,” Coach Doe said.

Owen didn’t fit in, especially after taking his first run 80 yards for a touchdown.

“There were hurt feelings immediately,” Doe explained about the competition for playing time.

Jackson lost playing time.

“I worked hard every day. Could you imagine Katrina hitting and all of a sudden starting from scratch your senior year?” Jackson told the Saugus athletes.

Jackson said at one point, he was ready to fight his teammate, but his offensive line convinced him not to.

He relied on faith, his music and coach to keep himself grounded.

Coach Doe explained his philosophy to his team with a poem called, “The Man in the Glass.”

The poem ends:

“You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass
But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.”


“That stuck with me my whole high school life,” Jackson said. “You can’t cheat yourself. Put others before yourself.”

Coach Doe explained that in the team’s final game, Jackson sacrificed playing time for Owen, explaining that Owen was the better player.

The whole experience resonated with Saugus athlete Garrett Smith.

“Coach Doe and Stanley make us all realize just how lucky we are to have everything when their school had nothing and to be thankful for every little thing we have in life,” Smith said.

Saugus High Principal Bill Bolde caught wind of the film about a month ago and through some connections was able to get Saugus athletes and coaches to attend the screening.

His goal is to get the film screened for every athlete in the William S. Hart Union High School District.

Before leaving, Coach Doe explained what happened to Owen.

Owen got a scholarship to Southeastern Louisiana, but was converted from tailback to fullback.
Then he quit.

Jackson, a 22-year-old music education major at Southeastern University will soon resume his football career as at least one Southern California junior college has enticed him to play again.

For more information on the film, visit www.walkingondeadfish.com.

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