When North Iberville High School closed its doors in 2009, also lost were its football, basketball and track programs along with its loyal supporters.

On Sept. 24, just before dusk, the school’s stadium lights shone for the first time in five years, drawing parents, students, business sponsors and faculty to the rural school’s first fundraising game in years.

North Iberville Elementary School Principal Terri Harris watched cars pull into the school’s driveway from La. 77 in Rosedale.

“The community is elated, and the community is coming back,” Harris said. “It’s like a new beginning. When the school closed, the morale in the community went down.”

Though the elementary school remained opened and MSA North Virtual Academy replaced the former high school, Harris said nothing drew the community to the school after hours — until now.

Harris agreed to start the North Iberville Pee Wee Bears at her school this year. But it was the game between Plaquemine and Livonia High schools that helped ignite the excitement.

North Iberville cheerleaders waved their green-and-white pompoms and cheered for the Plaquemine team, while the Pee Wee Bears stood on the sidelines, filling up on hot dogs, sports drinks, Frito pies and sizing up the plays.

Harris rounded up teachers and faculty to collect tickets and work the concession stand, while Bears Pee Wee coach Marvin Price stirred up a pot of jambalaya.

Harris, a 1984 alum of North Iberville High — then Shady Grove and now MSA North Virtual Academy — reminisced on the excitement she felt as a teen on game day.

“I was a dancing doll and a cheerleader,” she told me. Off the field, “I was a member of Beta Club and the National Honor Society.”

Coach Price said Harris’ enthusiasm is helping make it all a success. “Mrs. Harris is a major asset to our program because not only is she throwing her support, but we are making kids accountable with their academic performance,” Price said.

Shortly after she reopened the school grounds for practices and events, families started exercising on the track and volunteering with the teams and its cheerleaders, Harris said.

“It’s exciting. It’s like old times,” said Xavier Anderson, a Shady Grove alum whose two grandsons play Pee Wee football while her granddaughter is a cheerleader.

Players are just as thrilled.

“It feels good playing for my home team,” said Calvin Smith, a Plaquemine High student who lives in Maringouin and helps train the younger players.

Price said he wanted to help rebuild sports on the north side of the parish. “I’ve watched a community that was basically dead, come alive again…. Sports has a way of mending fences,” Price said.

Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer and can be reached at chantewriter@hotmail.com.