Lambert has somehow made unparalleled excellence seem rote. The south Forsyth high school, the county’s youngest until Denmark opens this fall, has now won the Regions Director’s Cup for four straight years.
There’s always something new and unique for Longhorns athletic director Drew Ferrer to experience, though, something to make the year stick out. Some of that came in the form of unexpected absences for the Longhorns: The baseball program missed the state playoffs for the first time ever, a year after winning the region title, and the football team, defending the same crown, also missed the playoffs. The girls soccer team, coming off a dominant state title run but having taken heavy losses to the new Development Academy level of club soccer, was absent from the playoffs as well.
But that created an opportunity for other programs to step up and create their own winning traditions. The boys soccer team, with only three seniors, blew threw the region schedule and state playoff to win its second state title. The girls tennis team, a year after finishing third in the region and ending its season in the state quarterfinals, was state runner-up, and gave Walton its toughest challenge of the season in the title matchup.
Success, as ubiquitous as it may be for the Longhorns, certainly isn’t getting boring.
“We had just a lot of different groups that did some good things,” Ferrer said from his office, with two Directors Cup trophies positioned behind him.
Note: Responses and questions have been edited for length and clarity.
FCN: What was your response to both baseball and football missing the playoffs, with those programs being not just historically successful at Lambert, but also two of the more prestigious sports in this state?
Ferrer: Historically, they've both had great runs, they really have, and I think that's the first time baseball didn't make the playoffs, and maybe the second time football didn't. So they've both been very solid programs, and I know when you have down years like that, it's just going to motivate our staff and players to get after it and work hard and get right back in it. So I think they'll be working very hard to get back to the level they want to be at, and it's just one of those years. But I think it was a very good baseball region and a very good football region, and all the way around, a good region.
FCN: How do you feel about Jamie Corr, who built a powerhouse baseball program here, being back in the county? (Corr is now the athletic director at Denmark High.)
Ferrer: Jamie and I are very good friends, and I respect him a lot and care a lot about his family, so I'm really excited that they're back up in this area so I can see him more. I think he's going to do great things for that school and those programs over there. He's a very good leader and they've got a great staff … As far as a different role goes, he's always been a very good leader. He was a department chair here and he's led our programs for baseball, so it'll be a different role in a sense, but at the same time it'll be the same type of Jamie, a very good leader, and he'll do great things over there.
I'm excited for him, and that whole school, that whole community. I think when you open up a new school, there's so much excitement to it. There's so many opportunities to be the first whatever it might be, and it's just neat for the kids to have that experience, and for the staff as well. It's exciting, and I think they're going to have a good run.
FCN: Boys lacrosse continued its huge run of success – that program seems to always be among the best in the state, contending for a title. What do you think it can teach others about how to be successful?
Ferrer: I think the model that they've used, which I guess starts from the bottom up. They start pretty young with those kids, third and fourth grade, and they start doing feeder programs. I think when you get people to buy into the whole Lambert thing and not playing travel baseball here, AAU basketball here, and they stay with Lambert, I think it shows that you build successful programs if you get down and work and build a good feeder program.
… Same with basketball: (Head coach Scott) Bracco does a great job with it, and you can see consistency in his program, where we might lose really good players one year but we still have a consistent, solid team, because he's been developing his kids since they were young, doing the skills and doing the offense and defense he runs. They've been learning it since they were probably in fourth, fifth grade. So I think when you build programs ... Gwinnett has a great model with that with their football and everything else, where they have the feeder programs and the kids staying together, (and) I think it makes a big difference.
FCN: GHSA executive director Robin Hines recently came out in support of going back down to seven classes, in effect chopping off Class 7A. What are your thoughts about the current alignment of things?
I think that there's a lot of good schools in 7A, (and) if you put us back down to 6A, it's going to make it even stronger. It's going to make it more challenging to win and be competitive, because you add back some schools we used to be in a region with, like Johns Creek and Alpharetta and some of those schools that were very strong as well. You've got Pope back into the mix – a lot of those schools that are 6A that are very strong. It'd be very, very competitive. Like I said, we can't control what they do or don't do, we've just got to keep working and keep building and trying to do what we do. We'd love the challenge and it would be great competition, for sure.