West Feliciana coach Gannon Achord is tired of hearing the same tired opinions about the status of Saints baseball in District 6-3A.
“Parkview Baptist is always good, Brusly is always good, U-High is always good,” the first-year coach said. “West Feliciana will be good, but they’ll never win district.”
Before this season, West Feliciana was a serviceable 10-10 in district over the past two years but went 3-9 against the Eagles, Panthers and Cubs during that same time.
It didn’t end with the regular season, either. Two years ago, the Saints made one of their best postseason runs in several years all the way to the Class 3A quarterfinals only to be ousted by Brusly.
But winning is in Achord’s blood, and as the son of Kyle Achord — who won several state titles as the coach of Central Private and one with Catholic High — Gannon wasn’t about to lay down and accept the status quo.
“He instilled some of those traits in me and always stressed the importance of the details, and I wanted to bring that to West Feliciana,” Gannon said. “(West Feliciana) always had good players, but I don’t think their expectation level was set very high. It was complacency.”
One of the first projects the new coach installed during the fall was what he called the “Sulphur Challenge.”
Modeled after the week-long workout program several college baseball programs around the country use named the “Omaha Challenge,” West Feliciana broke its players into separate teams and pitted them against each other to see who could acquire the most points through various strenuous workouts.
For the next seven days, the Saints carried tires, ran stadiums and even crawled through mud pits. By the end of it, they were a completely different team.
“That was some crazy stuff right there,” senior pitcher and third baseman Trey Morgan said. “(Achord) tried to push us as hard as anybody could be pushed.
“We’re (mentally and physically) stronger than we’ve ever been. It made us come together as a team.”
Achord’s new approach is working halfway through the season.
West Feliciana (15-3) is in the midst of its best season since at least 2011, which is as far back as LHSAA online archives go. In the latest power rankings, the Saints are No. 4 in Class 3A.
Morgan, a Southeastern Louisiana commitment for next season, said the team is more confident than ever and feels strong as they start district play.
In the past week, the Saints outscored opponents 40-5 through three games, including a pair of wins against Baker in the district opener.
West Feliciana still has another two weeks before playing the big three in the district, including top-ranked Brusly, but Achord is finally seeing the success he saw his father have while growing up.
“If you do things right from August all the way through the season, I promise you’ll get rewarded,” Gannon said. “I’m fortunate that they bought in right from the get-go. It’s not supposed to happen this quick.”