Northwood Lena Gators had every team make it to the second round of playoffs and further last season
LENA, La. (KALB) - For the Northwood High School Gators, success has not been in the book, athletically for many years, but this past year, everything changed.
The athletic program took a turn for the better as every sport made it to the second round of the playoffs and further for the first time in school history.
“I wanted to come in and change the climate and the culture,” said Northwood Athletic Director and Head Football Coach Tommy Moore. “It is exciting, very exciting. It was a good year for our athletic teams. I saw it in football, baseball and softball. Winning is contagious. It is not just amongst the players you have, but the community as well.”
As a first-year head football coach and athletic director with the Gators, Coach Moore had his mind set on turning a few things around as soon as he stepped foot into his office.
“Part of it was getting the players to buy into what I believe I should do to win football games and get this program to where it needed to be,” said Moore.
“As we went through the year, we built more and more confidence,” continued Moore. “We won two district football games, and I’m not sure when the last time they won two district football games around here was.”
The Lady Gators basketball team had the biggest turnaround of all as they were the only team to go all the way to the championship game and take the state title last season.
The Lady Gators have not had a winning season since 1989 until Head Coach LaShanda Cooper took control of the court in 2016.
“When you have a record like when I first came of 2-22, it is kind of like what goals do you set?” said Cooper. “Our main thing was adversity last year. We weren’t ready, and once the season starts, I had to make sure that I scheduled games that made us uncomfortable.”
“I put 5A, 2A, 3A, 4A, and if this didn’t make them uncomfortable, this wasn’t our year,” continued Cooper. “We ended up being 34-1.”
Many of the players were not used to that kind of success, so they were shocked that the team went undefeated last season.
“It was really unbelievable, starting off the way we started off,” said Lady Gators Senior Forward Na’kiyah Allen. “Me personally, even though Coach Cooper pushed us so hard, I was like why are you even trying? I don’t think we will win a state championship.”
The Lady Gators stepped on the court as the favored team to win the state championship on March 4 and clinched the Class 1A championship title for the first time in program history.
“There were 4 minutes and 32 seconds left, and I was like, goodness, is the clock moving?” said Cooper. “Reality started to hit, and I was like we are really about to win a state championship. When that buzzer finally went off, if I could have just laid in the floor, I would have.”
“It was unbelievable, still to this day I don’t have emotions like we won it,” said Gators Junior Point Guard Rhianna Allen. “I didn’t even cry. A lot of my teammates were crying, and I was just like, wow.”
Coach Cooper and the Lady Gators hold their heads high as the 1A state champions but are ready to get back in the gym, confident they can keep the legacy going for years to come.
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