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Spotlight on Former Athlete: Raymond Lation - Football 1972-76
Lation recalls '74 Cajuns
coping with change, storm
By Bruce Brown
JEANERETTE – Raymond Lation can understand the quandry facing college football coaches and players as the nation deals with the disruption and danger of the virus outbreak.
Lation played for USL's Ragin' Cajuns from 1972-76, bridging the coaching change from Russ Faulkinberry to Augie Tammariello, and was among those thrown a curve in 1974 when Hurricane Carmen hit south Louisiana.
The Cajuns were to host Arkansas State in the season opener, a game dubbed Operation Turnaround for Tammariello's debut, but the wind went out of their sales when Carmen forced the contest to the end of the season.
“Everybody was hyped for the Arkansas State game,” Lation said. “We had a new system and we wanted to show it off. We were ready to play, but then the hurricane canceled it.
“It was a letdown at the time, because everyone was ready to go.”
As a product of the vaunted St. Augustine high school program in New Orleans, Lation had lived through Hurricane Betsy in 1965, so he knew caution was warranted.
“We all stayed here, in the dorm,” he said. “There was nothing to do but knuckle down and ride it out. Then, it didn't really do much damage in Lafayette. It mostly hit south of here.”
This year's Cajuns saw their season opener against old rival McNeese canceled by the virus scare. They also replaced a home game vs. Wyoming with an opening road trip to Iowa State, called off a road trip to New Mexico State and made other changes to end up with an 11-game slate.
“I don't think anybody should be playing football right now,” Lation said. “These are strange times. The players probably all want to play, but when you're older you can see all the difficulties involved.
“Nobody in my family has it. We're pretty much on lockdown, confined to our home. If we go to the store, we call in the order.”
The danger, Lation said, is the contact with others.
“The young players may not know if they have it,” he said. “You can feel good, and still spread it to other people. Or you can catch it and have a seriois case. It's just so unpredictable.
“Coaches have to look out for the program, but if you don't have players, you don't have a job. UL had a fantastic season last year, and you want to be able to play to follow that up. It's a hard situation all the way around.”
Tulane and the Near Miss
The 1974 Cajuns had to get focused agan after the Carmen episode, traveling to New Orleans to face a Tulane team that had defeated LSU for the first time in 25 years in 1973.
Tammariello almost got his signature victory right out of the starting blocks, but the Green Wave got a late pass interference penalty to help pull out a 17-16 win.
“We saw it as a showcase, that we could play with a bigger team,” said Lation, who remains foggy on details of the contest.
“In the first quarter, I went down to make a tackle on a punt, and I remember I got laid out,” he said. “When I came to on the sidelines, everybody was yelling and screaming and hollering.
“I couldn't have told you if we just kicked off, or what. It was over, and I was saying 'what happened? ' ”
The stunned Cajuns were then hammered 38-0 at McNeese, lost the re-scheduled finale to ASU and managed a 2-9 campaign in the transition year,
“When I first got to UL, I was told we would be playing Division I four years down the road,” Lation said. “We just didn't have the personnel to run the kind of offense they (Faulkinberry) wanted to run. He wanted a power offense, but we weren't big enough or strong enough to move people off the line.
“With the linemen they have now, you can run that offense. It would work.”
Current Cajun coach Billy Napier built his 2019 squad around such a running attack, which had two linemen (Robert Hunt, Kevin Dotson) and running back Raymond Calais Jr. drafted by the NFL.
“When Augie got here, it was half old players, but he was on the verge of getting his players in here,” Lation said. “By the time I was a junior, we were ready to gel, just right,.”
The 1975 Cajuns managed a 6-5 finish with St. Aug-ex Roy Henry asserting homself at quarterback, and in 1976 UL was 9-2, losing only at Northwestern State (7-3) and McNeese (20-19).
“We should have won both of those games,” Lation said. “Northwestern was the coldest night I ever played in, and McNeese was a grudge game.
“Coaches remember the losses (more), but I try to remember everything I can about every game.”
Lation was named Most Valuable Player by his Cajun teammates for his solid senior year.
The 170-pound halfback led the team in rushing with 729 yards on 168 carries with four touchdowns. He was also a solid receiver out of the backfield.
“I was a pretty good fit for that offense,” he said. “I was a three-down back. The quick hitters worked well with our passing game. The other team thought we were going one way, but we went another.”
An All-Southland Conference choice as a senior, Lation finished with 1,307 career yards on 387 attempts, scoring 10 times on the ground.
And, he tallied his one 100-yard game in a 23-14 home win over Arkansas State in that last season, gaining 102 yards on 16 carries. Obviously, he was still ready to take on ASU.
Lation used track speed to excel and escape danger on the field, clocking a 9.8 100 and 4.5 40 yard dash. Today, he said he would still be useful in the wide-open games some 44 years after he played.
“It's definitely a whole lot faster,” he said. “Offenses are a lot more wide open. And you've got offensive linemen who can run a 4.9 40. I would be a slotback. I like to catch it and run with it.”
These days, though, the 65-year old Shell Oil retiree is content to stay close to home, especially in these uncertain times.
“I still talk to teammates like Roy and Ulysses Abadie, players who were from St. Aug like I was, and I go to a UL game every now and then,” he said. “I keep up with them.”
Lation's caution with virus is well-founded. He figures, like hurricane interruptions, this too shall pass.
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Raymond pictured below as the 1976 MVP of the Football team and second team SLC.
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Please click photo gallery (left side of www.athleticnetwork.net), Football, and the years 1973-76 to view Raymond and his teammates.
Click here for Raymond Lation's Athletic Network profile.
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Click here for the 2007-present chronological listings of the Spotlight on Former Athletes.
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