Port Allen football coach Don Gibson admits it’s never easy to see a playoff loss shatter dreams of a state championship, but he said he cannot overlook how far the program has come in the last four years.
A 35-19 loss against Mangham on Dec. 10 erased Port Allen’s hopes of a trip to the Class 2A non-select quarterfinals and the ultimate dream of the state championship, which continues to elude the Pelicans.
The loss does not diminish the accomplishments the players made this year, said Gibson, who coached the final game for the seniors who were freshmen during his first year at the helm of the program.
Gibson preached “changing the culture” during his first year as head coach, and he said the 2020 squad made huge strides that direction.
“It’s been a process, and I just appreciate everyone from the coaches, the kids and the administration for staying behind us,” he said. “It doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes some patience, and I truly believe we’ve done it the right way to make sure we’re in position to sustain that success.”
Regular season foes such as Livonia, East Feliciana and Episcopal brought plenty of challenges to the Pelicans, along with post-season adversaries such as Ferriday and Mangham, but a much bigger rivalry loomed off the field.
The coronavirus forced cancellations, sidelined players and brought additional week-to-week uncertainty.
He also had to accept the loss of six players prior to the season who decided they no longer wanted to be a part of the program.
“It was difficult … dealing with COVID has been a big challenge to say the least and the loss of those six players stung,” Gibson said. “But the kids and coaches stepped up, and I credit all of them for overcoming so much adversity.”
He credits this year’s success to the willingness of the players to buy into the program and believing in what he and the coaching staff brought forth.
“They understood that we were working to put them in the right position to make them successful, plus we had some guys with a good skill set,” Gibson said. “But most importantly, the overall talent improved over the years.”
The Pelicans will lose standouts including Jacoby Howard, running back Mekyle Franklin, Colby Credeur, Samahd Watson and Jalik Riley, but Gibson believes the success from the 2020 season will bring more players to the program.
“Our biggest thing now is to sustain the success, and when you do it the right way, you can have that longevity,” he said. “Success helps a lot in that respect.
“We’ve set the bar and we understand what we have to do to maintain it and move forward,” Gibson said. “Our goal now is not to go backwards.”