Editor's note: A summer series looking back at the athletic year that was for each Forsyth County high school with the county's athletic directors.
There was a refreshing mixture of both the familiar and new for Lambert athletics this past season.
Familiar in that the usual suspects won state titles or made the state playoffs. Girls golf and girls swimming each won their fourth consecutive state titles. Competition cheer won its third in the past four years. Boys lacrosse won its third state title overall. Boys golf came just a few strokes away from winning its second straight state title. Gymnastics finished third at state.
Girls tennis won its fifth region title, baseball its fourth and boys basketball its second. Football, girls and boys soccer and softball each reached the postseason again.
But Lambert athletics also enjoyed a string of new milestones from other teams. Boys tennis reached the state semifinals for the first time. Track and field swept the county and region championships. Boys swimming finished third at state, its best showing ever. Boys cross country came in a program-best fifth at the state meet. Volleyball won its first-ever state playoff match. Wrestling had its first individual state champion in Matthew Sheetz.
The familiar successes and new ones helped Lambert finish first in Class 6A in the Director’s Cup all-sports competition for the second straight season.
FCN: The school has won the Region’s Director’s Cup twice now. Is that something you talk about as a goal with athletes and coaches before the season?
Drew Ferrer, Lambert athletic director: “We don’t typically make a big deal out of it throughout the year. I definitely keep an eye on it because I like to use it as a benchmark. But I think when it comes to late in spring, I think some of the kids pay attention to it now because they’ve seen the attention that comes from it afterward for the school. And I think it’s a neat thing, especially for the seniors. They leave and they feel like their class helped accomplish this.
“It’s something that’s such a neat thing and is special, but it’s not like we’re pushing everybody along the way to make sure we get deep in the playoffs. The culture here of winning has been established since we’ve done well. I think our kids want to come out and try to win region championships and win state championships. That’s their goal.”
FCN: Lambert won eight region titles this past season, the most of any school in the county, but you’re about to join a smaller region next season with the move to Class 7A. Does that diminish the accomplishment of a region title at all?
Ferrer: “I still think it means a lot because you’re still having to face very good competition. When you have a group of 10 or 11 schools, you might have some teams in certain sports that just aren’t quite as good. So in some sports you can honestly say it comes down to four or five teams every year. Like baseball this year, there was a race of probably five or six teams. Typically, in the past, the north Fulton schools haven’t been as strong in softball.
“Even though we’re shortening up in the numbers, I think it’s going to be the right schools pushing each other, and I think it’s going to be very strong still.”
FCN: What do you think adding Milton into the mix of the Forsyth County public schools will be like?
Ferrer: What do you think adding Milton to the mix will be like?
“Historically very good athletics. With lacrosse and baseball and some of the sports we’ve played them in, there’s already a little bit of a rivalry. Being that Milton athletic director Gary Sylvestri came from our county and knows a lot of us, I think there’s a really good competitive rivalry.
“They’re going to be good. Boys basketball is very strong, football’s done well the last couple of years. It’s going to be a good school for us. I think it’s going to make for good gates and stuff like that.”
FCN: The runs of dominance by girls golf and girls swimming has been just incredible. How long is it reasonable to expect those to continue?
Ferrer: “I still think you’ve got a pretty good amount of talent in girls golf, and I think this area lends itself to these sports. You look at all the golf courses around here and the swimming. Grand Cascades and some of these places have been historically strong with the youth stuff. I think we have a chance to continue to be strong and competitive in those areas for years. Will it end? I think it’s hard not to expect it to end at some point. But I’ve seen Walton girls tennis win quite a few.
“When you have programs that are thriving and doing well, if someone’s moving to our area from another state they might see a great girl golf program or a great swimming program. I think you have some of that as well to help continue the tradition.”
FCN: What issues do you have your eye on in the next couple of years?
Ferrer: “The rezoning is probably the biggest question mark. I don’t know what’s going to happen with Denmark High School, what neighborhoods we’re going to lose. We’re all just kind of in limbo to figure out what that’s going to look like. That’s a challenge, but that effects athlete numbers.
“I don’t know if they’re going to mark our district at Georgia 141, if they’re going to go Windermere Parkway. No idea what they’re going to do. I do know anytime I drive near South Forsyth or near here there are homes being built. So I don’t know if that’s just going to take care of itself.
“That can have a profound effect on things. If they think they’re going to back-fill South with us but there are neighborhoods being built over there, they might not even need to back-fill South. I don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s a big, big question mark.
“I still think all of our schools need to continue to work on building feeder programs from the youth on up. I think that’s important. We all have to continue to try to build from the ground up and get these kids excited about being Bulldogs, War Eagles, Wolverines, whatever it maybe, and get them excited so we can continue to build and get them excited about being here.”
FCN: What are the things you hear other athletic directors talking about?
Ferrer: “I think you still have a lot of the specialization stuff. That’s a big topic. How are we going to encourage kids to play multiple sports? Because we’re not athletic enough here to have kids specialize. We need kids to play two, three sports here if they can and want to. It’s great to see someone like Tanner Hall playing football and basketball. But if that kid didn’t do that, we’d take a hit somewhere, because he was special. When Tucker Maxwell was here – kids like that you want to have playing multiple sports. You see it with soccer. If M.E. Craven didn’t want to play basketball – because she’s very good at soccer – that would hurt our girls basketball team.”