LAFAYETTE, LA — Wednesday a young group of state champions began their trip to California to compete in a national competition, but the true m-v-p of the season isn’t with them.
“Do it for? 32! Do it for? 32!”, chanted the Lafayette Swamp Cats U-10 youth football team ahead of their state championship game.
Number 32, Phillip Dauterive III’s season ended August 27 in a deadly car crash. For many of his eight and nine-year-old teammates, it was their first experience of losing a friend.
“I’ll never forget the moment I got that call,” recalled Coach and Swamp Cats owner Rusty Noel. “You got to face all of them and explain what happened. One of the toughest moments in my life.”
Phillip’s parents, Phillip II and Kimberly Dauterive, say a distracted driver crossed the dividing line causing a head-on collision. Phillip’s life was cut short, but his father in the car with him survived.
His sister Leah, told her brother in a video she produced online, “You’re my best friend. I love you, bro, and I’m never going to stop missing you.”
On Christmas, we reached out to Phillip’s family about the team’s success, but they are having a hard time this first holiday without their son.
The father, Phillip II, said, “I don’t need an angel on my Christmas tree. I already have one in heaven looking down on me.”
“He has touched so many lives in such a short time that we consider him to be our angel,” Yolanda Fierce who knew Phillip.
The family turned the tragedy into a celebration on what would have been Philip’s 10th birthday. They called it the first Phillip Fest, creating the P3 Foundation which provides scholarships to students and raises awareness to the dangers of distracted driving.
People in attendance said it would be, “So others won’t have to face what Phillip faced.”
All the while, teammates carried Phillip’s #32 jersey to every coin toss, making him a permanent team captain. Their team motto is 132%. That extra thirty-two for their missing player.
“You could hear another kid holler, ‘hey, 32 ain’t out here. We’ve got to pick it up for him,” Coach Noel said.
“This is for you Phillip,” the team cheered when the wore their Louisiana State Championship rings.
Noel said this season’s success would have been impossible without Phillip’s death bringing the team together. Still, the team would give it all up if it meant bringing #32 back.
“I just want to bring that trophy back for the Dauterive family,” said Noel. “I think when I do that, our goal as a whole entire team and swamp cat family will be complete.”
The Lafayette Swamp Cats’ first game will be Saturday. They will play the same time as the LSU playoff game.
The U-10 squad isn’t the Swamp Cat team competing in California over the weekend. The U-12 Swamp Cats are also in the running for their own trophy.