WATSON - Given the long-standing tradition of some of New Orleans’ finest athletes ever to play there, Live Oak cornerback Taylor Martin’s certainly intrigued at the prospect of playing at Tad Gormley Stadium.
The 81-year-old, 26,500-seat stadium sits in the heart of City Park and has witnessed its share of athletic events ranging from high school football to U.S. Track and Field trials.
It’s also hosted a Who’s Who of New Orleans prep football royalty, a venue that outside of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, is arguably a bucket list experience for prep athletes playing in New Orleans.
Live Oak (5-4) gets such an opportunity when the Eagles travel to face Holy Cross (6-3) at 7 p.m., Thursday.
“I think it’s going to be a really cool experience to go play on the same field as Marshall Faulk and Peyton Manning,” Martin said. “It’s right in the middle of New Orleans, something new to play in.”
The regular-season finale also represents a point where Live Oak’s season truly took off a year ago.
The Eagles withstood a missed 26-yard field goal to secure a 14-13 victory, a win that was considered a first for the school over a team from the revered Catholic League and served as a springboard toward the Class 5A state quarterfinals.
“It could easily be one of the biggest – if not the biggest – wins in Live Oak football,” Live Oak fourth-year coach Brett Beard said. “With their history and tradition of being in the Catholic League, to get a win over Holy Cross was huge for our program.”
Martin said, “That’s a signature win to beat one of those teams.”
The teams' paths intersect at another precarious time for Live Oak, following a 27-10 setback at parish rival Walker.
It cemented a sixth-place finish for the Eagles in District 4-5A, but pushed them to an unofficial power rating of 26th entering the final week of the season.
A win over Holy Cross for the second consecutive season could have a similar affect on Live Oak’s season, facing a team that stopped a two-game losing streak with a 24-20 win over St. Augustine last week and finished District 9-5A play in fourth place.
The Tigers’ losses this season have all been in league play to No. 1 John Curtis (41-26), Archbishop Rummel (39-3) and Jesuit (28-7).
“We’ve just got to bring Live Oak football to New Orleans and play our game for 48 minutes,” Martin said.
Figuring out how to accomplish that has been an ongoing tug-o-war Live Oak has another game to get fixed before the start of postseason play next week.
“My talk with them on Saturday was that you’re running out of time,” Beard said. “But the good news is that you still have time. You have to take advantage of what we still have on our schedule and get the things corrected. It’s simply the now.”
Beard pointed to last week’s game with Walker as a case in point of his team’s inability to maintain success.
For only the second time this season the Eagles scored in the first quarter on Sal Palermo’s 23-yard TD pass to Grant Richardson. They later extended that margin to 10-0 on a 22-yard field goal at the 7:52 mark of the second quarter after having second-and-goal at the 1-yard line.
Despite forcing three second-half turnovers, including an interception from Martin, they didn’t score again.
Live Oak’s defense limited Walker’s high-powered offense to 257 total yards, including 83 rushing yards on 23 attempts.
“If we put it all together,” Martin said, “we can take a win home and it would show what we could do when we play a full, 48 minutes in all three phases. If we can do that and play Live Oak football, we could be a scary team to play.”