(The Daily Advertiser) – The Sonny Charpentier era, in football anyway, is over for now.
Teurlings Catholic officially announced Charpentier’s retirement as head football coach in a news release Tuesday evening. Charpentier will remain at the school as the athletic director.
Charpentier informed his team of his decision last week prior to the team’s playoff loss to Parkview Baptist.
“I sent him a note to him that high school football is going to miss him,” St. Thomas More coach Jim Hightower said. “He was a competitor. I’m sure Teurlings is going to miss him, but the greater high school football community is definitely going to miss Sonny.”
For more than two decades, the expectations each fall around Teurlings Catholic have been pretty high.
It wasn’t always that way, though.
The 60-year-old Charpentier arrived on the campus at Teurlings for the 1988-89 season as a head basketball coach and football assistant.
He led the Rebels to the Top 28 Tournament and coached basketball until 1995. That’s when Charpentier took over as the school’s head football coach.
In the two seasons prior to him taking over, the Rebels were 4-16. Six of the eight years prior to Charpentier were losing seasons. Teurlings went 12-1 in his first season as head coach in 1995.
In his 22 seasons as the Rebels’ head football coach, Teurlings endured only two losing seasons. His career record is 194-73, including 91-21 in district play. Charpentier led the Rebels to 11 district titles, advanced to quarterfinals 11 times and the state semifinals three times.
Charpentier took over as athletic director in 1998. Since then, Teurlings teams have won 24 state titles, 20 state runners-up, 100 district crowns and 49 district runner-up finishes.
“Not only did he turn a program around, his tenure marked the most successful football program in school history,” Teurlings principal Mike Boyer said. “Sonny was more than a football coach on a school campus. He was a leader, father-figure, mentor, and role model for students, teachers, and staff. He has always been available in every facet of life that is a Catholic school. I am pleased he will stay on as athletic director. Since Sonny took over as athletic director we have enjoyed much success, and I see it continuing in the future.”
Many coaches would stay one more season to reach the historic 200-win career total, but Boyer said that wasn’t part of Charpentier’s decision.
“With Sonny, it’s never been about Sonny,” Boyer said. “It’s always been about the program.”
No program coached against Charpentier more over the years than coach Lewis Cook’s Notre Dame Pioneers.
“Sonny did it the right way for the right reasons,” Cook said. “You never saw a bunch of recruited athletes out there. He took what was coming to Teurlings and he got them ready to play and made them better.”
Cook said their relationship grew over the years.
“For a while, we were both cordial to each other, but there was no real relationship,” Cook said. “Over the last 10 or 12 years, we’ve gotten to be pretty close friends. We’ve texted each other every week for a few years now. I remember when they beat us in 2012, (son) Stu and I were sitting around and he said, ‘Dad, I really hope Teurlings can get to the Dome.’ I did, too.
“We’ve always had that mutual respect for each other. I hated those years when we had to play a second time (in playoffs). We had some knockdown, drag-out games with them, but there was never any noise that you get in some of those games. I’m definitely going to miss that competition. They made us better every year.”
Cook said he saw the great competitor in Charpentier again in this year’s game. The Pios were up by two touchdowns and Teurlings faced a fourth down near its own goal line.
“A lot of coaches would have punted right there to make the final score look more respectable,” Cook said. “Sonny wasn’t worried about that. He was trying to win the game.”
Few know Charpentier’s competitive manner any more than his prize pupil, Jake Delhomme.
Delhomme played basketball for Charpentier, who also helped the Rebels reach the state semifinals in 1992 as an offensive coordinator with the future UL and Carolina Panthers star at quarterback.
“I’ve always said that I was so fortunate to have two of the best coaches anywhere in Sonny and coach Cook,” Delhomme said. “When I got to the NFL, I knew how to play. No coach had to teach me the fundamentals. Sure, I was a little bit of a gunslinger, but that was just me. I knew the fundamentals. I was still doing the things Sonny taught me all those years in the NFL.”
Delhomme said Charpentier coached basketball with that aggressive football mentality. He remembers a basketball tournament when the Rebels were clearly over-matched in the finals by an undefeated Franklin squad.
After falling in the championship game, the reception from Charpentier in the locker room afterward wasn’t what Delhomme and his teammates expected.
“He said, ‘Y’all like second place? Second place is fun to y’all? Y’all like this second-place trophy?” Delhomme related. “Then he picked up the trophy and threw it against the wall. It shattered into pieces. Then he said, ‘Get on the bus.’
“He knew we had no chance to beat that team, but that’s what he gave to us. It was always: ‘Strap it up, let’s go’.”
Throughout his career in the NFL, Delhomme said he’d routinely call or text his old coach about the Rebels.
“They could be playing the Chicago Bears that week and he’d always tell me what they were going to do on offense and how they were going to score,” Delhomme said. “He always thought he was going to win. That’s just the kind of competitor he is.”