Nelson Stewart reminisces about how cold that night was.
He remembers Haynesville fans traveling in droves from the Arkansas/Louisiana border to New Orleans — a five-hour and 41-minute drive. He remembers eating lunch in the cafeteria, hearing bells and blaring horns from Haynesville fans as they circled the block around the school.
The 1991 state football semifinals were hosted by Isidore Neuman against the Golden Tornadoes. Stewart, then a freshman, was the defensive lineman of a team managed by Peyton Manning (the future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback) and Cooper Manning (a senior team captain and wide receiver).
Manning orchestrated the Newman victory over Kentwood. Newman did have a few winning teams during the 1970s but the school wasn’t known for its football skills.
Stewart is now Newman’s coach. Stewart said, “I can close and recall… that was probably the largest crowd I have ever seen.” “I was a ballboy and a water boy for many years. In middle school I played football. It was then that I discovered how wonderful Newman football is.
But Newman’s storybook season didn’t end happily ever after.
Manning was intercepted on the potential game-winning drive by a Haynesville linebacker who had initially fallen down but got back up on his feet in time to pick off Manning before he could react.
Stewart explained, “Just being within a breath from the Superdome that was larger than any one’s wildest dreams.”
This is still Newman’s closest attempt to win a football state title, 30 years later.
The Greenies had two more seasons with Peyton Manning at quarterback after 1991 and another three from his brother — two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Eli Manning — in the latter half of the decade.
Then from 2007-10, Newman boasted three-time Pro Bowl selection Odell Beckham Jr., the best pure athlete Stewart has ever seen at the school.
Stewart stated, “Any athletic feat that you can think of, he would more than likely accomplish it.”
Newman now has Arch Manning. He is the nephew of Peyton, Eli and Cooper, and is the son and nephew of Cooper. In the class of 2023, he was the 1 quarterback. He recruited from Alabama, Clemson (Ole Miss), Texas, LSU, Georgia and Texas.
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Stewart declared, “When you think about football, it is without question, particularly on our level. It’s also the most difficult pinnacle.” A state championship in football can be unlike any other. It can’t be just one individual. We see it in so many sports that one or two men can have a huge impact on the whole team. One or two players in basketball, or one goalie can influence a pitcher.
But football is an entirely unique entity. You just need to do so many things.”
Stewart, who has been Newman’s coach since 2005 and a Greenies fan following his years as a player, has witnessed it all. Stewart has seen Newman come close, but not get it right every time.
In 1992, Peyton and the Greenies lost on a last-second field goal to Pickering. Eli lost in the quarterfinals to East St. John his junior season and to Riverside Academy the next, despite only losing one regular-season game during that two-year stretch.
Newman had even seasons where there were no Mannings and Beckhams, which almost saw them break through. Newman made it to the semifinals in 2013, losing to Catholic New Iberia. They did the same in 2017 and went undefeated during the regular season, before falling to Notre Dame, the eventual state champion.
Arch was Arch’s sophomore year as quarterback. The Greenies fell 21-7 to Lafayette Christian in the semifinals of the state playoffs.
Stewart explained, “I actually take each year by itself.” “I do not look into the rearview mirror often, but that is very important to me.”
Newman is the winner of 105 state championships. Stewart is optimistic that the year could change, even though none of these titles are in football.
Newman, who is a talented player, outshine Manning as the most prominent state offensive tackle despite his junior status. Bo Bordelon (three-star offensive tackle, LSU commit) is a senior captain who leads the offensive lines. Manning loves Will Randle. Randle is an LSU, Texas, and SMU tight end.
Stewart is happy that Greenies have lost 2 games. He wants a unit that’s fought through adversity, something Newman teams of the past could never fully overcome.
Newman is the No. Newman, the No. 5 seed has a bye in Division III playoffs. It won’t start its title hunt until next week against Episcopal.
Stewart explained, “We’ve seen a lot these teams.” It’s not all about winning every game of every season. Is it about you, and how are you improving? Do you find it difficult? Is it possible to be tough?