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State of the Program: A spring powerhouse, Longhorns were looking for titles in 2020
Lambert players celebrate after a goal during the Longhorns’ 2-0 win against West Forsyth in March. File photo

Lambert Year in Review

Region titles: 1, volleyball

Team state titles: 1, cheerleading

Individual state titles: 0

Director’s Cup finish: 8 (4th girls; 16th boys)

Best boys state finish: 2nd, boys cross country

Best girls state finish: 1st, cheerleading

Since opening in 2009, Lambert has won 31 team state championships.

Nineteen of those came during the spring season, with girls golf capturing six, boys lacrosse winning four, boys soccer tallying three titles. Baseball, boys golf, gymnastics, girls soccer, boys tennis and girls tennis each have one state championship.

So, given Lambert’s track record in the spring, there’s reason to believe the Longhorns would have padded that number this year if not for the COVID-19 shutdown.

In fact, three of those spring sports – boys soccer, girls golf and girls tennis – won a state championship in 2019.

“You look at Coach Luthart for soccer. He had an opportunity to coach a group of girls that were very, very special,” Lambert athletic director Drew Ferrer said. “(Madison) Haugen, (Sydney) Hennessey and a bunch of those girls were girls that have been with him since their freshman year. They’ve won a state, national championship with him, then they were going to hopefully come back and win their senior year and kind of walk out like that together, but that didn’t get to happen. You hate to see that for those kids.”

Even without spring sports, Lambert enjoyed a successful 2019-20 school year by anyone’s standards. Cheerleading won its sixth state championship in eight seasons, the boys cross country team finished second at the state meet, and the Longhorns’ girls swim & dive team took fourth at the Class 6A-7A state championships.

FCN: I know it’s tough to evaluate the school year when there’s a large chunk missing, but was there anything that stuck out to you this year?

Ferrer: “Obviously, in the fall, we won in cheerleading. Boys cross country got second place, so we had a good fall – volleyball made a little push, too. We had a good fall and winter coming out of that. Felt like winter wasn’t bad, too. Swimming had a good year (and) boys basketball made the playoffs. I think our girls basketball program is still very young. In Coach Moon’s first year, I thought he did a really nice job of getting buy-in from the girls and the families, and I think he’s going to be a great coach for us.”

“Coming into the spring, I think all of us felt very, very good about our spring sports. We always do pretty well in the spring. We had some teams that were really in a good position to do well. Girls soccer was right there, tied for the region. The boys were right behind Central, I believe. I thought we would have had a great spring and made another push for the director’s cup. I’m not saying we would have won it, but I think we would have been there toward the end.”

FCN: Lambert has traditionally been very competitive in the spring. How tough was it to see so many seniors end their careers that way, and did you have any advice for them?

Ferrer: “You just try your best to comfort and let them talk and vent. It was tough, because I think we had a lot of teams that could have made pushes in the playoffs, if not won state championships. It’s always about the kids. You watch them work so hard; I mean, these kids start playing rec ball when they’re little, then move up to some sort of travel when they get to middle school or high school. It’s just so many years of their lives. These families have been doing it together for a long time, so you want to see it culminate and end on their terms. They didn’t get to end on their terms. It ended on something none of us could control.”

FCN: Cheerleading won another state championship, which is their sixth in eight seasons. How have they been able to be so dominant for so long?

Ferrer: “I think it starts with the youth stuff. I mean, you’ve got these girls that have been tumbling and been doing some sort of gymnastics, tumbling or cheer since they were little. This area is just so well known for cheerleading and having great athletes. With the feeder programs at the middle schools, too; they do a great job. So, we really get a lot of great talent, then you take our staff, and they’ve been able to really get a lot out of the girls as well. We also have phenomenal parents. Those parents do a great job of supporting and staying involved and helping, and doing everything they can do to help so the coaches can really focus on coaching. Our girls just work. They work their tails off, they’re great athletes and they’ve represented us well for many years.”

FCN: Cross country is a program that appears to be in great shape, especially the boys team, which finished second in Class 7A last year and only lost two seniors. What do you expect to see out of them?

Ferrer: “We’re all very excited about that group. They’ve been a good group for a while. Last year they finished in second place, and really, I thought, had a chance to win it last year. They did really well. Got almost everybody back, so we feel like it’s going to be a great season for them and certainly a chance to finish top three, four, five again, if not win it.”

“We’re having to follow – obviously, everybody is – these guidelines and requirements and stuff, so working around those has been challenging, but all of our coaches have done a great job. James Tigue has been great with the kids this summer and this fall. He’s excited. They open up this weekend with a dual-meet with South, I believe. That’ll be good for the kids. I think any time we can run with our neighbors – the kids all know each other, which is fun. They all like that. It’s an opportunity against another great school. It’s another sport where our area and region is just incredible.”

FCN: I’d imagine cross country would be one of the last sports to have its season affected by COVID-19.

Ferrer: “I’d like to think that if there are any decisions made, it will be individually by each sport, not just a wholesale cancellation. Maybe look at football individually, cross county and everything else, then just made a decision based on each sport.”

FCN: Sara Im just won the Georgia Women’s Amateur as a 15-year-old. How impressive was that? Between Im, Averi Cline and Iris Cao, Lambert’s girls golf team should be a favorite for the next couple of seasons.

Ferrer: “It’s incredible. That program for a long time now has been just remarkable. These girls obviously come to us very well trained and very well coached. They’ve gone to swing coaches for a long time, so it’s really just getting the right person to guide and kind of be there mentally for them. That’s what Shane (Fortenberry) has done a great job of. Sara is obviously a very special player. Cline is very good – there’s a lot of them. We expect to see them do great things for the next few years.”

FCN: There seems to be a lot of buzz surrounding the football program, which is typical when a first-year coach steps in. When Lambert hired Tommy Watson back in February, how did you know he was the right person for the job, and what have you seen out of him that has solidified that decision?

Ferrer: “When we interview him, we felt very good about the way he treats kids, the football programs he’s been around, his pedigree with other coaches he’s been around and just felt very good about him as a person. I think when you’re interviewing people, you’re looking at people you’d feel comfortable putting them with your own kids. All these kids at Lambert we feel like are our kids, and we wanted to put the right person in front of them.”

“He’s got a great staff along with him. Marc Beach – there’s a bunch of them that came over. Then he’s taken some existing guys, and he’s made a really nice staff with our kids. We feel great about the energy and the excitement that the kids have right now. I think sometimes just a change can get some excitement back and some energy back, and that’s kind of what it’s been.”

FCN: Denmark already seemed like sort of a regional rival, with the schools only being a few miles apart. Now the Danes are in Region 6-7A along with all the other public Forsyth County schools. What do you think of the new realignment?

Ferrer: “Any time we can get all of our Forsyth County schools in one region, I think that’s a great thing. You’ve got a lot of similar, like-minded AD’s in the county. Our county AD and our whole beliefs as a school system kind of align, and that’s great. To have us play another opponent that has kids that grew up together, it’s just a neat thing for the families. Gainesville I’m not as familiar with, but certainly looking forward to them joining us as well. It’s not too bad of a drive, and it’s against traffic, so it’s not bad. They’ve been competitive for many years, so I think that’s a good addition to our region.”

FCN: Has there been any word passed down on what fan attendance this fall will look like?

Ferrer: “I know for sure we’ll be putting signage out there and we’ll have the PA announcer at every event mention several times to please practice social distancing and encourage fans to wear their masks. We’ll have signage out there as well, so we’ll try to be consistent with our message across the county. We haven’t really been told a final number or anything yet as far as stadium capacity. Other than that, I think everything’s been really good in regards to just putting the message out there to be consistent with the county and the schools: masks are expected and social distancing is expected. I don’t know how far you’re going to enforce that, but we’re definitely going to encourage and do our best to make that a reality so we can have fall seasons.”