There’s a saying in sports. You don’t want to be the one who tries to replace a legendary coach. It’s better if you are the guy who follows the coach who tried to replace the legendary coach.
A lot of times the person who replaces a very successful coach can’t live up to the expectations already established, and is shown the door after a few years.
But 36-year-old Gabe Fertitta could not have done a better job following the footsteps of longtime Catholic High Football Coach Dale Weiner. Weiner won 317 games in his 41-year coaching career. 282 of those victories came at the Baton Rouge school and after years of trying, Weiner finally guided the Bears to a state championship in 2015. The Hall of Fame coached decided to step down the following season.
In his second stint as an assistant coach at Catholic, Fertitta was Weiner’s offensive coordinator for his final three seasons. When Weiner retired, Fertitta got the job.
“Nobody was more surprised than I when Coach Weiner retired, and then that same day, I got called into the office and told that tomorrow I need to present a plan for the future of the program. It was all kind of whirlwind when it did happen.”
This is not Fertitta’s first head coaching job. He spent two seasons as the head coach at St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. The 2000 Holy Cross graduate also served as an offensive coordinator at Locust Fork High School in Alabama and Itawamba Community College in Mississippi. His last season at Itawamba they went 10-0 in the regular season.
Fertitta came to Catholic when Weiner gave him the opportunity to run the Bears offense. The move back to Louisiana paid off with him getting the head coaching job following the 2016 season.
“The thing about taking over the program from Coach Weiner is there really isn’t a whole lot of room for improvement. That was one of the scarier things for me about taking over the program. When you go into other places you came come in that’s evident right away where you can improve and things you can do better.”
Fertitta’s first season as Catholic’s head coach, the Bears went 7-3 in the regular season and were seeded fourth in the Division One playoffs.
Catholic started its playoff run with a 44-0 win over Archbishop Shaw. In the quarterfinals, the Bears won a defensive struggle over St. Augustine 7-3.
That set up a trip to Shreveport to face Evangel Christian. In 2015, Catholic beat the Eagles to advance to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where they beat Rummel for its first state championship.
In 2017, history repeated itself as the underdog Bears went into Shreveport and beat Evangel to set up a matchup with arguably the best high school football program in Louisiana, the John Curtis Patriots.
Catholic won a hard fought 20-14 game over the top-seeded Patriots to win their second title in three years and Fertitta won a championship season.
This season, Catholic is off to a 4-1 start and one of the favorites to make it back to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where they could possibly play Curtis again.
“The blueprint has been here and it’s been a here a long time, so I just made sure not to screw it up,” said Fertitta.
Catholic High takes on St. Amant Friday, October 5th at 7pm. The game will be streamed live on yurview.com.