Destrehan and Wildcats football runs deep in the Madere family.
Jason Madere has the pride that goes along with being the principal of Destrehan when the Wildcats play for the Class 5A state championship at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Superdome in New Orleans.
He also has additional emotions of being a former Destrehan player and coach, as well as being the father of current Wildcat, Preston Madere.
The elder Madere was an offensive tackle when Destrehan played for the state championship in 1993 when the Wildcats lost 28-21 to West Monroe.
“I remember we were a team kind of like this one. Nobody expected us to be there. We upset Ouachita, we upset Shaw. Then we came across West Monroe. I joked with the West Monroe principal the other day that I think we started West Monroe’s dynasty back in 1993,” said Jason Madere.
What Jason Madere recalls of the game was not so much the final score.
“You don’t remember much about the state championship game. You remember all the things leading up to it and you have all those memories that you talk all about after it,” he said.
There are a few things the current Destrehan principal recalled of that game more than 25 years ago.
“The one vivid memory I have is we were driving and we threw an interception and the (West Monroe) linebacker ran it back the whole way and that just kind of deflated the whole building.
We had some success early in the game. We broke a long run. Old No. 7, Rondell Mealy, broke a long run and we scored.”
The game, Madere said, seemed to come and go in a flash.
“What I always tell the kids is it happens so fast. I tell them to take it in an adsorb it. Before you realize, you will look up and the scoreboard will be clicking zero,” he said.
Like the elder Madere, Preston will get a chance to play on the field of the Superdome.
“It’s the Superdome. You can go there and watch a Saints game but when you go down on the field and you look up, it’s one of those ‘awe’ things,” said Jason Madere.
He played for head coach Tim Rebowe, now the coach at Nicholls who has led the Colonels to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs the last three years. One of Rebowe’s assistants was Stephen Robicheaux, the current coach at Destrehan who now coaches Preston.
Preston is a first-year starter as a senior, playing the same position as his dad once did – right tackle. The younger Madere does so as an undersized lineman in this day and age at 235 pounds.
“He’s worked extremely hard to get in a situation right now, starting for Destrehan as his dad did in 1993. He’s just a great kid. He works hard and does a tremendous job for us. He’s kind of an overachiever that’s come a long way. It’s his first year starting. It couldn’t happen to a better kid,” said Robicheaux.
Poppa Madere, a one-time offensive line coach, offers his own assessment.
“My son is the kid that I loved to coach. He’s the smallest one of the group but he’s the nitty-gritty one. He will compete with you. He found his way on the field early because he knew all the positions. He can play center, guard, tackle. He ended up being a starter. He’s not the kid that is going to line up and push you around, but you will know you were in the game with him,” said Jason Madere.
Preston offers his own assessment.
“A lot of it with me is just playing better technique. I’m can’t just out-power people, With my strength I have to use my footwork to get a better position so I can block. I might not get as much movement but they will not make the tackle because I will be in the way,” the younger Madere said.
Madere and teammates were 4-3 on the season through seven games after dropping three of four during one stretch. The Wildcats have not lost since.
“I think, since Thibodaux, our offense has really come together,” said Preston. “Our defense has been playing lights out all season. Our offense finally clicked in the Thibodaux game and we’ve been building on it every week until we got here now.”
What was the reason for the turnaround?
“Coming into the season, a lot of us weren’t starters. A lot of us were new starters up front. It was basically a whole new O-line. We finally played enough and got enough experience under our belts together and we have been building on it,” Preston explained.
Sensing a chance to play for a state championship for Preston Madere was not something that began when the Wildcats got on their hot streak – it came long before that when he used to follow his dad around Destrehan practices.
“I’ve been part of the Destrehan program since I could walk,” said Preston. “I can remember him coaching and I would always want to come to the games and come to practice. Even if I didn’t have to be there, I always wanted to be at Destrehan. I’ve seen how people have grown and developed and he’s taught me so much. He’s been my coach since little league. He’s helped me build as an offensive lineman.”
“He’s been around here. When I was at the middle school and I was coaching, he was leaving middle school and coming over to practice. He sat here and probably heard some things he shouldn’t of heard dad say, but he’s always been a little part and piece of the program, even from the outside looking in,” Preston’s dad said.
Dad has had family bragging rights having reached the state finals. That led to a bit of good-natured ribbing.
“I don’t know if I would say ‘giving him a hard time,’ but you can see he’s grown. He’s never been an overly-confident kid, but he’s starting to get some confidence in himself. Sports changes kids,” said Jason Madere.
“I’m trying to show I can do better than him,” Preston countered.
Preston is representative of more than just a generational aspect with his father at Destrehan. For Preston, like most of his senior teammates, comes the realization that they will be putting on a football uniform the final time in their lives on Saturday.
“This will be my last game as a Destrehan football player and football in general. You can’t have any regrets after the game. You just need to play your heart out. Every play needs to be 110 percent,” said Preston.
What kind of fatherly advice has he received as the big final game approaches?
“Just to leave it all out on the field. This is your last game, no matter what. You don’t get another one after this, so play your heart out,” Preston recalled.
Finally, what would it mean to bring home another championship trophy?
“If we won this, it would mean the world to me. I’ve been dreaming of this since I was on the sideline at games just dreaming of playing Destrehan football and being in this position,” said Preston.