It took Jim Hightower nine tries to get to the state finals, but now his STM Cougars have a chance to give their coach a gift he's waited a long time for.

It doesn't matter how long it takes to get it, a championship in the trophy case stays in there forever. Coach Hightower was going into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in 2016 before this playoff run even happened, so this could be the grandest icing to the sweetest cake of his long coaching career. His seniors can say "thank you" to their leader with one more win.

Will Bellamy, Trevor Begue, Aaron Monrose, Evan Trahan and a slew of seniors accomplished something nobody ever did before for Hightower. It took a win over their rival Teurlings, in a grudge match, to get to the Superdome. For their first time in the Dome, how about a little beginner's luck?

It's almost fitting they have to play Parkview Baptist. They had to rid themselves of some regular season demons too.

Teurlings beat STM in the regular season, but the Cougars got revenge in the semifinals. Parkview went through identical circumstances. They lost to U-High earlier in the season and handed them a 41-28 payback last week. Both squads conquered giants already, but somebody's story has to end on a down note in the Division II title game.

At 5:00 pm this Friday, Hightower will watch his team take the field with pride. Will the seniors be able to say goodbye with a championship?

Championships are more than just rings to wear and brag about. Equally, champions are more than just people who win things. It takes a certain type of person to lead a group of men to that level of greatness. Hightower's ability as a coach isn't in question, but a state championship would be the crown jewel in an already accomplished career.

If the Cougars bring some hardware back to Acadiana, the whole team deserves a parade. Give Coach Hightower his own float, and make sure he enjoys the spotlight. He earned it, and this moment has been a long time coming...if his men can only deliver.