Having a 5-5 record going into the final game of the season might not seem special to the average fan.
But the average fan doesn’t know the story of the Louisiana School for the Deaf football team that ends its season by hosting Carolinas School for the Deaf on Saturday.
“We changed the mindset,” first-year LSD head coach Susan Gremillion said.
“There’s always been so much emphasis placed on winning a (deaf) national championship. So whenever you lose a game it takes the air out of your sails.
“This is a young team in a lot of ways. Instead of letting that linger, we decided to take each game as it comes and work to get better. And they have. We’re looking forward to Saturday and next season.”
Gremillion made headlines last spring when she was named head football coach of the War Eagles, succeeding her husband, Darren, who took on added administrative duties at the school.
She was at first considered to be Louisiana’s first female head coach. Gremillion is the state’s first female head coach of the post World War II era. Mary “Mary Mac” McMichael was head football coach at Amite High during World War II.
Information on McMichael’s tenure as head football coach is hard to come by since it was about 70 years ago. There’s a touch of irony. McMichael, who died in 2000, also taught at LSD at one point in her career.
Gremillion’s story is much about the here and now with an eight-man football squad that has won two in a row. She’s got a 20-player squad that features one seventh-grader and one eighth-grader. There are two seniors and five juniors.
Linemen Montrell Hawthorne and Jacob Gordy are the seniors. Both played less than two years at LSD after coming from other schools.
Lineman Tre Davis, utility player Josh Rebert, noseguard/linebacker/running back Murrell Jackson, quarterback/defensive back Matthew Brown and RB/DB Brandon Thomas are the juniors.
Most students from LSD come from other parts of Louisiana. The football team provides a cross section. Jackson, a Monroe native, came to LSD this season with a championship ring earned at Neville.
“You could tell he was well coached before he came here,” Gremillion said. “He was used to playing on the line and going after people. It took him a little time to learn the other positions.”
Like any other football coach, Gremillion has stories about each player and the previous games. Never one to seek individual accolades, Gremillion acknowledges the milestones. Of course, she knew no one wanted to be the first to lose to a “girl.”
Numerous times the cheerleader sponsor has reminded the War Eagle players they’re “making history.” Players doused Gremillion with water when Georgia School for the Deaf coach Eric Whitworth called a late timeout when LSD won its first game Sept. 12.
“He (Whitworth) told me afterwards he didn’t want to be the first (to lose to a woman),” Gremillion said. “But he said he was glad I got the win.”
The process was repeated last weekend when LSD beat GSD for the second time.
“They were so excited about how they played,” Gremillion said. “And they got me again.”
That’s not to say there haven’t been some trials. Mastering the paperwork that goes with arranging for food, transportation, etc. has been a change. When most road trips are nine or more hours, it takes some planning.
“Darren always handled that and made it look so easy,” Gremillion said. “For a while I felt like I was buried in paperwork.”
Some trips yielded other experiences. Players visited the memorial for the Oklahoma City bombing and a number of national monuments during a Washington, D.C., walking tour.
The coaching change brought a role reversal for the Gremillions. Darren Gremillion took on his wife’s previous role as defensive coordinator.
Do they talk football at home? “We don’t have a Vegas rule, so yes we do,” she said.
Tuesday was a football day like the ones other schools experienced. Wet grounds forced the team to practice inside again. Gremillion scanned extended weather forecasts that might force Saturday’s 6 p.m. game to be moved up.
Gremillion smiles as she talks about the rapport she has developed with the players and their team chemistry. She sees those as building blocks for the future.
“We take football very seriously,” Gremillion said. “These are typical teenage boys. So there’s never a day when I don’t laugh about something.”