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Friday Night Football Provides Storm Relief

Hurricane Katrina destroyed the school and the football stadium. It ruined the uniforms of both players and cheerleaders. And it battered the bridge that used to link Pass Christian, Mississippi, with neighboring Bay Saint Louis. But none of that could keep Pass Christian High School from playing Bay High School this past Friday night in an annual and traditional rivalry.

It took the National Guard to clear the Bay Saint Louis field, resurrect the goalposts and serve as the “chain gang” marking first downs. Players wore donated uniforms. The officials used their watches to keep time and notepads to keep score because the scoreboard had blown away.

Bay Saint Louis won 27-14, but there was more to the game than football. The event brought some sense of normalcy, at least for four periods, to two towns left devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Former Bay Saint Louis star Quentin Bell said the game made him smile for the first time in a long time. “I lost my house. All my vehicles. My kids’ clothes. My clothes, “ Bell noted. “It just makes us feel a lot at ease tonight to come out here and smile all over again.”

The evening was especially poignant for Bay Saint Louis tackle Buddy Schultz, who lost his grandmother in the storm, and survived a harrowing ride on a rooftop with his father and two sisters. He said the game helps him and his family forget their ordeal. “For however long the football game lasts, (we don’t) have to worry about what’s going on around us,” he explained.

The game also served to reunite friends who haven’t connected since the storm. The night was filled with hugs and high fives in the stands.

Bay Saint Louis coach Brennan Compreda said his players and the community need something more normal in their lives. “This is one of the only normal things that they do on a daily basis. So it’s very important.”

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Howard Berkes
Howard Berkes is a correspondent for the NPR Investigations Unit.