Surfing the internet today, I learned that La Marque High School has run out of appeals and will be closed at the end of the school year. While the details still are to be worked out it appears that this is truly the end. The last game the Cougars would play was a 2nd round 42-39 lose to Caldwell. I couldn’t get the link for the story about that game, but I’ve attached the story about the last win La Marque would ever have… on the night that the news of the closing came out.
Best of luck to the coaches, players and supporters of the La Marque Cougars. Above giving me a great first chapter to Big and Bright, you’ve done amazing work helping so many.
From the Galveston County Daily News:
Thursday night, the La Marque Cougars won a first-round playoff game for the 24th time in the past 26 years, but it was far from business as usual.
In the first half of the Coogs’ 35-6 bi-district win over Liberty, the news that La Marque faithful had feared since February officially came down — the Texas Education Agency would be shutting down the school district.
“Instead of going into halftime of a game and making halftime adjustments, we’re going in and deciding how to handle this situation,” La Marque head coach Mike Jackson said.
Jackson and his staff decided not to tell the team the news until after the game, but whispers of the announcement reached the players before then.
“We came out, understandably so, a little distracted coming into the third quarter,” Jackson said. “The only time we didn’t dominate the game was the first 6 minutes (of the third quarter). Then we kind of settled down.”
Pre- and post-game was the definition of peaks and valleys for the La Marque players, who received a pep talk from La Marque alum and Super Bowl V champion Norm Bulaich before kickoff, only to officially receive the news of the district’s closure after the final whistle.
“Right after the game, the coaches brought us all together, and, to me, it was really heartbreaking to know that the school that I’ve looked up to since I was in elementary school is closing down,” senior offensive lineman Ashton Holmes said. “It’s really sad.”
The life lessons players have learned through athletics — such as focusing on the task at hand, controlling only what can be controlled and that things aren’t always fair — are now being put to the test as the team continues its playoff run this week.
“I’m moving forward by keeping a positive mindset, telling people that it’s not the end,” Holmes said. “Even though La Marque ISD will no longer be here, we’ll still have a great school.
“Hopefully, this will attract people back here and build up our school numbers, so the tradition can continue, not as La Marque ISD, but as La Marque High School,” Holmes added.
It’s been more than nine months since the TEA’s decision to close La Marque ISD was first announced. Through appeals to the state, the district was able to delay a final decision until Thursday.
The entire time, though, this season’s Coogs have lived with that dark cloud hanging over them.
“It’s made me grow as a leader,” Jackson said. “It’s something I’ll never go through in my career again.”
There might not be a player on the team that La Marque ISD’s situation has stuck closer to than Holmes, who is the class of 2016’s valedictorian.
“When we found out on Feb. 6 the situation we were in, I was turning 17 that day,” Holmes said. “That was the worst birthday news ever.”
If one positive can be drawn from the school district’s struggles, it’s that the dire situation has made the team tougher than what would have been expected of this year’s group otherwise.
Jackson called this football season’s successes a true testament to both the players and coaches.
“We’ve lived it since Feb. 6,” Jackson said. “It’s been a teaching moment, that you focus on what you can control, and that’s really all you can do.
“I think it’s made us more resilient as a team,” Jackson added. “We just take the attitude of we control what we can control, and what we don’t control, we can’t worry about.”
In what was projected to be a down year for the Cougars, the team now sits with a 9-2 record, are winners of nine straight games and are district champions.
“Everybody knows that this was the year you were supposed to get La Marque,” Jackson said. “Our numbers are down, we don’t have the talent that we’ve had in years past. Everybody on our schedule was licking their chops. But, here we are.”
Going forward, following nine months of outside distractions, the team now finds itself doing what it has tried to do every week — preparing to try to win a football game.
“The team, and especially the seniors, haven’t had a chance to truly enjoy this playoff run because the focus has always been on other stuff,” Jackson said.
La Marque’s area round playoff game will be 7:30 p.m. Friday against Caldwell at Falcon Stadium, 25437 Willy Lane, Huffman.
Now that the team knows it is in its final playoff run under the La Marque ISD banner, maybe now this crop of Coogs can enjoy it a little bit.