LEESVILLE, La. (Fort Polk Progress) - Leesville High School football team head coach Robbie Causey was recently selected as 4A All-State Coach of the Year, following a historic, first-ever undefeated season for the Wampus Cats, who made it to the semi-finals.
"It's quite an honor because of the people who have come before me in the state who have won the award and their accomplishments," Causey said. "For me to be named in the same branch is very humbling."
He attributes the award to each of the players and assistant coaches of his team.
"It's more about the kids than it is about me," he said. "What a great acknowledgment of the hard work of all the assistant coaches and these kids buying into the program and just believing in me, loving one another and having a great year."
Reflecting on such a memorable season for the Wampus Cats, Causey said, "It was just a year that we had where everything fell into place."
"When the kids run the team, when they're the ones holding one another accountable, and when they're the ones motivating themselves, you're going to have a good year. And this year we had that," Causey said. "They served one another, they showed up early and stayed late -- and that in itself helped us win a few games that we shouldn't have won on paper, but enabled us to beat those teams because these kids played hard for one another."
Causey stressed how proud he was of all the players on Leesville High School football team, which consisted of many military-connected students, including Matthew Anderson, Talyn Adams, Duwon Tolbert, Matthew Pajinag, Ruben Jeane, Jakob Feliciano, and Nigel McCoy.
"Each of the players has a special place in my heart. When I first got hired, they were coming out of their freshman season and they stayed with me," Causey said. "There's an emotional bond with these kids because of what they showed others -- they led by example. They trusted the process of what we were trying to do. They showed others of what it's supposed to be like -- that it's not about winning or losing, but about going to work every day."
Another of Causey's highlights of the season was the community support the Wampus Cats received.
"One of my goals, when I took this job three years ago, was to reconnect with the community and Fort Polk because I found that there was a distance there," he said. "Just seeing the crowds and the way the community came together supporting us on the road games and the way the stands were packed at our home games, was just phenomenal."
Causey said he even received a congratulations letter from the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk Commanding General Brig. Gen. Patrick D. Frank.
"It was just shocking. I didn't think he knew I existed," he said. "To get that letter made me proud to know we are giving back to the community and letting them know that we want them to be a part of our program."
The community support made Causey emotional many times. He recalled the night the Wampus Cats played against Assumption.
"I shed tears that night seeing the stands packed, and knowing the community was coming to support these kids. It's what I've always wanted," Causey said. "The great thing about sports and high school football in the state of Louisiana -- and what separates us from a lot of other states -- is the passion of which it bonds a community and gives them all something to look forward to. For me to be able to do that here and be a part of it, was heartfelt."
With the season now over, Causey hopes his players take away much more from the sport than athletic skills.
"Our goal is not to win ball games. We're developing the next group of leaders of our community, the next group of people who are serving the public --- workers, husbands, fathers," he said. "When I look on the effect that we had, I hope it's that these kids will impact the community with the things they have learned from us, such as work ethic, learning to never quit, learning to serve one another, and learning to be servant leaders."
Moving forward, Causey said there is a lot he learned in the 2018 season that he will be implementing -- both on the field and in the classrooms -- such as making the most of off-season training.
"This year is over and we have another group that parents have entrusted to us. We have to make sure these kids are academically and athletically successful," Causey said. "It's never going to be about wins or losses. My hope is that we continue to develop our players to turn into leaders of the community. I hope we continue to grow as coaches to better prepare our kids for the future through the game of football."