Anytime Calvary football coach John Bachman is near a microphone, buckle your seat belt.
Bachman provided one of the signature moments of the inaugural Times Best of Northwest Louisiana Preps banquet sponsored by Calumet Specialty Products when he lauded keynote speaker Jackie Joyner-Kersee for her message.
“That’s one of the greatest athletes to ever live,” Bachman said at the top of his lungs. “And what she said is what needed to be heard.
“She was short, right to the point, and it came from the heart.”
Bachman and four football players accepted the award for Team of the Year after winning the Division III title in a nail-biting victory against Catholic-New Iberia to cap a 12-1 record in which the Cavaliers steamrolled through the district and playoffs.
Joyner-Kersee’s message centered around how a work ethic can make up for athletic deficiencies, but it’s what a person does with fame that counts.
“I came in last in the first competition I ever competed in … but if I improved a tenth of a second in a running or event or a half inch in a jump — that hard work paid off,” said the three-time Olympic gold medalist. “None of you were born when I competed and don’t know who I am, and yes I have some records, but they don’t mean anything to me unless I’m a great person.
“Don’t forget where you come from and who was there when you were struggling. Come back to the community to help and come back to support it.”
Joyner-Kersee had Olympic company in attendance with former teammate Hollis Conway, who won two Olympic medals in the high jump and is a Shreveport native. Other dignitaries attending included Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler and former New Orleans Jazz star Aaron James.
Parents, coaches and friends surrounded the athletes being honored Tuesday, but none received a more heartfelt welcome than the family of Captain Shreve football coach Richard Lary.
The coaching award will be named the Richard Lary Coach of the Year because of the impact Lary had off the fields and diamonds as a Caddo Parish coach for 27 years.
Many shared their Lary stories in the days following his death, and sister-in-law Lesley Amos shared one more Tuesday.
A player on an opposing team was moving away, and Lary sent that player a card saying how much he enjoyed competing against him.
“He was someone to everyone … and everyone was someone to him,” Amos said.
Seven other major awards were given in addition to honoring the top male and female of each sport.
Evangel baseball coach Tim Hulett is the Coach of the Year as his Eagles are seeking their third straight state title this weekend in Sulphur.
Calvary’s Shun Brown was named the Male of Athlete of the Year. Brown was The Times All-City football Offensive Player of the Year, a second-team member on the All-City basketball team and part of Calvary’s 4X100 state title relay team.
Loyola’s Mattilyn Reeder took home the Female Athlete of the Year honor. The All-City soccer star also played softball and volleyball and provided competitive fire to every arena she entered.
“My parents sacrificed a lot for me to play all those sports … and they made my dreams their dreams,” Reeder said.
Captain Shreve’s Willie Jordan is this year’s Unsung Hero recipient. Jordan dedicates countless hours to Gator athletics, doing everything from keeping stats to laundry to giving kids a ride home.
“I make sure I get the numbers right,” Jordan said.
Northwood’s Aaron Varelas earned the Courage Award after rebounding from a juvenile diabetes diagnosis in his junior season to return to the track and football field only to have his senior season derailed with a knee injury.
Calvary golfer Sam Burns won the Ambassador Award, promoting Shreveport-Bossier as the No. 1-ranked junior golfer and No. 7 amateur golfer in the world.
“I don’t know if I count as an athlete because I play golf,” Burns joked.
The game of the year goes to the North Webster Knights, who erased a 23-point fourth-quarter deficit to defeat Patterson 51-47 in the Class 3A quarterfinals.
“I hope I’m not in another game like that any time soon,” Ware quipped.
Individual honors were given to the top male and female athletes in each sport.
Spring sports honors included Parkway’s Nicole Taylor (bowling, female); Parkway’s Niki Edwards (bowling, male); Byrd’s Valentina Mitchell (lacrosse, female); Loyola’s Hayden Watts (lacrosse, male); Calvary’s Rebecca Grace Kimball (tennis, female); Byrd’s Grey Bianca (tennis, male); Loyola’s Alden Wallace (golf, female); Calvary’s Nathan Jeansonne (golf, male); Northwood’s Kwaume McGee (city track, male); North DeSoto’s Christian Boyd (region track, male); Byrd’s Morgan White (city track, female); North DeSoto’s Jessica Trammel (region track, female); North DeSoto’s Maddie Burchell (region softball); Haughton’s Anna Dies (city softball); North DeSoto’s Hunter Speights (region baseball) and Captain Shreve’s Bryant Bowen (city baseball).
Winter sports awards included Parkway’s Zac Funderburk (wrestling); North DeSoto’s Kati Jayde Cunningham (soccer, female); Benton’s Ethan Parks (soccer, male); Mansfield’s Ashlyn Jacobs (region basketball, female); Lakeview’s Tivonte Hardy (region basketball, male); Huntington’s Caitlin Jenkins (city basketball, female) and Byrd’s Chad Lott (city basketball, male).
Fall sports honorees included Evangel’s L’Muriell Thrower (volleyball); Caddo Magnet’s Marin Tichenor (swimming, female); Byrd’s Kaden Amidon (swimming, male); Parkway’s Hayden Kingfisher (cross country, male); Parkway’s Sara Funderburk (cross country, female); North Webster’s Devin White (region football), Evangel’s Jerry Tillery (city football).