Rival coaches are also friends

Vandebilt Catholic athletic director Laury Dupont (left) and E.D. White Catholic athletic director Preston LeJeune are good friends and have been neighbors for 35 years. (Photo by Brent St. Germain/Sports Editor)

The many Christmas lights that dot the landscape on Park Drive during the holidays aren't the only thing special about the well-known Thibodaux street.

Something else makes it special — its residents, two in particular: Charles "Laury" Dupont and Preston Lejeune.

Dupont lives at 1202 Park Drive, while LeJeune calls 1206 Park Drive home.

What makes the proximity of these two men's homes interesting is it came by complete accident.

Currently, former Thibodaux High, West St. John and Vandebilt Catholic head football coach Dupont serves as Vandebilt's athletic director. On the flip side, LeJeune carries the same athletic director title at E.D. White Catholic High in Thibodaux.

Coincidentally, the two schools have enjoyed a fierce rivalry spanning decades. On Sept. 1, E.D. White won the latest battle, 27-15, on the football field.

So how do guys like LeJeune, who coached the Cardinals football team for 23 years, end up moving in smack dab next to Dupont?

"I originally came here (Thibodaux) to run a Sonic Drive-Inn," LeJeune said. "Once I got to Thibodaux, I quickly found out that the guy I was living next to had been the state championship quarterback at E.D. White and was also a coach there as well."

Dupont, who led the Cardinals to their first state championship in 1968, said he'd never met LeJeune prior to him laying down roots on Park Drive 35 years ago.

Dupont said he has lived in the same Park Drive home for close to 40 years.

"We didn't know one another, but hit it off pretty quickly," Dupont said. "He actually came to E.D. White when I was leaving to start another coaching job."

Throughout the years, both men have followed different paths but share the similarity of being extremely successful at their respective schools.

Dupont won three state championships at West St. John during his 19-year career at the school, while LeJeune tallied a 181-82-1 mark as the head coach at E.D. White.

In many ways, the two are their biggest personal supporters outside of their wives and other immediate family members.

"One thing that always impressed me about Preston was his practice schedule and the way he paid attention to detail," Dupont said. "He was big on looking at film and breaking down his opponents. You always knew when you played a Preston LeJeune-coached team. You wouldn't be able to out prepare them."

Before Dupont ever challenged for a state title as a head coach, he remembers watching LeJeune bring one of his Cardinal teams to the then-called Louisiana Superdome for a shot at a championship.

The year was 1981 and E.D. White was the first team to ever play for a state championship in the Superdome against none other than J.T. Curtis.

"It feels like yesterday," Dupont said of watching his friend and neighbor coaching for a title. "It was a great game. I can recall going and watching them give Curtis everything they could handle."

LeJeune remembers that game all too well.

"We were the first game ever under that new format. Our game was at 11 a.m., and we ate eggs at our pregame meal," LeJeune said with a chuckle.

While Dupont has immense respect for LeJeune, the same can be said for LeJeune about Dupont.

"He's a great coach and an even better man," LeJeune said. "He's always done everything the right way, and that's what I most respect about him."

Given the distance between their houses can be measured in just feet, LeJeune and Dupont both agree that there have been a number of occasions where the two have talked shop on their back porches.

"We both love grilling and keeping up our yards," Dupont said. "I will tell you there have definitely been times where we drew up X's and O's on napkins in our back yards."

The relationship has benefited both men in a profound way.

LeJeune and Dupont said they are always willing to help each other out when it comes to watching each other's homes when they aren't around, picking up each other's mail or even cutting each other's grass when one of them is on the mend.

"It (the friendship) has been a very positive thing, and I know that will continue for years to come," Dupont said.

Fittingly, the two men said they split the only games they ever met as head coaches.

"I never really thought about it before (how the two men are neighbors and AD's for rival schools), but it is certainly interesting when you think about it. All I know is I'm glad to have him as a friend," Dupont said.