Some might call him a hero, while others will cast him away with the rest of their demons. Saint, jerk, brave, idiot … there’s lots of names for folks who speak their piece.
But Captain Shreve football coach Richard Lary just calls himself “tired” — tired of developing a relationship with a student-athlete over the bulk of his prep career only to lose him to another institution of high school learning.
Last year it was a defensive lineman to Calvary, this year a highly touted cornerback to Evangel. Small pieces of a bigger puzzle, but pieces that could lead to success and better job security, nonetheless.
“I don’t blame Evangel and I don’t blame Calvary, but this system has allowed those things to happen. And it is what it is,” Lary said. “Everybody I know that coaches in Caddo Parish works their tails off. We’re all out there struggling and we’re all fighting the battle, but we don’t get the option to fill a need year-to-year by bringing kids in. It is frustrating.”
The latest defection is Santos Ramirez, who weighed little more than a loaf of bread when he reported to Gatorland three years ago as a freshman. He beefed up, got some quality coaching, and like Brandon Harris at Parkway, seemed to bolt into the recruiting limelight almost overnight. Now Ramirez can attend almost any college in the country on a full ride, which Lary said would be the case whether he had stayed at Captain Shreve or moved to Evangel.
“The perception in town among parents is that to get anything, you have to go to Calvary or Evangel,” Lary said. “(Ramirez) goes to Evangel and goes to the LSU camp a week later, and now it appears he had to go to Evangel to get that scholarship, and he hasn’t played a game for Evangel yet.”
Evangel coach Byron Dawson said the Christian element at Evangel may have contributed to Ramirez’s decision to move back to his original school district. Ramirez was in the liberal arts magnet program at Captain Shreve where he maintained a 3.88 grade point average and scored a 22 on the ACT.
“Maybe the bigger question is how does a kid, who lives in the Huntington/Evangel district, end up at Captain Shreve?” Dawson said. “(Santos) just came back home. You can always come back to your school of first choice according to LHSAA rules.”
Lary isn’t disputing the rules. He’s just trying to win football games at a school where there’s pressure to win every year, and he doesn’t believe the cards are evenly distributed.
“I would never say that Richard Lary is the guru of high school football coaches, but I’ve been around a lot of good teams in my career,” said Lary, who has coached at Huntington, Woodlawn, Byrd and Shreve. “There’s no doubt that good players make good coaches at any level of the game. So, the better players you have, the better coach you appear to be. But some of the guys I respect the most, may have never won a playoff game, but they coached kids and made them better football players.
“If you’re starting with a zero and making him a five, that’s pretty good stuff. If you’re starting with a seven and making him an eight … there is a lot of good coaching in our area from North Webster to North DeSoto that goes on every afternoon after school.”
A number of reasons played into the decision of Kenya Louis, a self-described single mom, to move her son back into his home district.
“We have nothing against Captain Shreve, but a couple of kids at the school were challenging Santos, due to his status,” Louis said. “I felt like it was important to move him out of that environment, and we liked the Christian atmosphere at Evangel.”
Louis also said she after three years, she was tired of the traffic challenges of getting her son from west Shreveport to Captain Shreve.
The Captain Shreve player, who transferred to Calvary (neither coach wanted to disclose his name), was forced to sit out his junior year due to LHSAA rules, because his family did not live in the Woodlawn/Calvary district. But Calvary coach John Bachman, who doesn’t understand why a parent would choose any school other than Calvary, believes there’s nothing more important than parental choice.
“My question is and I think it’s a fair question, if I have a program called ‘magnet,’ and a parent chooses to operate within that magnet, is that parent really exercising a parental choice? If they are, then I’m all for them. And if you have a program called ‘minority to majority,’ does that mean all minority parents have to leave one school and go to another school or do they exercise a choice? I think the answer to both of those is you exercise a parental choice.”
Bachman sees a similar parental choice in deciding to send their child to a faith-based, or private, school.
“At the end of the day, in all three cases, are they not choices?” he asked.
And Bachman has no patience for anyone against parental choice.
“I’ve got my bayonet fixed and my gun loaded. I don’t mind saying that because that’s how I feel,” Bachman said. “I do not accept the government telling me what’s best for my family.”
Fair Park coach Mike Greene, who saw two of his starters transfer to Evangel over the summer, feels Lary’s pain.
“It’s almost an uphill battle and I feel for a lot of these guys at all these schools,” Greene said. “Nothing against the Byrds or the Calvarys or the Evangels — if somebody elects to go there, it’s fine — but don’t expect the guys at these other schools to put together these great teams when some of your better players are gone off your team every year.”
While Greene echoes Bachman’s sentiment that parental choice is paramount, he doesn’t like the way things have changed about job security in high school coaching. He said 20 years ago, if a coach did what was moral and what was right, “he was fine.”
“With the Internet, you get bashed all the time like we’re college coaches making $50,000 a month. Come on. It’s sad,” Greene said. “If you’re in (coaching) to win championships and not trying to make the players better men, then we’ve sold our souls to the devil — and I cannot do it.”
Shreve recruits too
Lary said he loses far more potential student-athletes to Byrd’s math/science magnet program than he does to Evangel or Calvary, and he finds that frustrating. That’s why he spent the summer on his own road trip.
“Is Richard Lary recruiting? Yes, I am. This summer, I tried recruiting all the kids in my district, trying to convince them to come to Captain Shreve and not go to Byrd, Calvary and Evangel. And that’s a tough sell,” he said. “The last two years we’ve been 4-6, but we’ve been very competitive in all the games we’ve played. We lined up and played hard and we’ve been one game away from the playoffs. So we’re right there on the edge with the kids who are showing up, but a lot of the kids in our district aren’t showing up at our school.”
Dawson, who prepped at Evangel before moving on to LSU, has heard the recruiting accusations about his school for years.
“It’s sad. Whatever people perceive, they believe, and perception is reality,” he said. “We just take it all in stride, because we have a higher calling — a higher mission — and we are able to do that because we’re not closed in by the parameters of the law in public schools, which is, ‘you can’t talk about Christ.’
“You can’t praise and worship or pray and do the things we do. We understand as Christians that persecution will come.”
Lary has no problem with the religious aspect of the private schools.
“But the Great Commission challenges Christians to spread the Gospel worldwide,” he said. “We need Christians in our locker room too. We have guys who need things like that..”
Embrace the love
Bachman said growing up at Southwood High School his teachers were allowed to begin class with a prayer and lead the Pledge of Allegiance with “God” included.
“I suggest to all my friends that if God were still in public schools, there may not be a Calvary and there may not be an Evangel and there may not be a John Curtis,” Bachman said.
Insisting that his job isn’t on the line whether he wins or loses games, Bachman believes Calvary will compete for a state championship this fall, despite losing several kids over the summer to other schools.
“If I have a kid who wants to leave me and go to Captain Shreve, I embrace that and I hug’em,” Bachman said. “Now, I’m gonna try to get them to stay at my place, cause I’m not stupid. But at the end of the day, I’m not gonna tell you I’m for parental choice as long as they go to Calvary.”
Santos Ramirez stopped by Lary’s office one day recently and the pair had a talk.
“From day one of his freshman year, Santos has been the hardest working, the most respectful, driven, focused, football player I’ve ever coached,” Lary said. “Obviously, I wish he were still wearing the green and gold, but he is a fine young man, who is well-mannered and was obviously raised right.”
During the brief visit, Lary pointed to a group of seniors in the hall guiding underclassmen around the school, and he told Ramirez that could be him.
“But Santos said he wanted a chance to win a state championship,” Lary said. “I told him, ‘Well, you got me there. You’ve got a much better chance of winning a state title at Evangel than you do at Captain Shreve.'”
At the end of the day, Lary knows he will be dancing this fall with kids who opted for Captain Shreve over the other choices available in northwest Louisiana. The Ramirez move presented an opportunity for Weylin Goodie to move into the secondary and the youngster stood out in 7-on-7 events over the summer.
“Weylin shined that day and he’s continued to shine. We would never have given him that look if we hadn’t lost Ramirez,” Lary said. “When life gives you lemons, you’ve got to make lemonade.”