Don’t look now, but the best record in Louisiana in college football is not at LSU or Tulane.
It’s in Pineville, at what is now known as Louisiana Christian University, where only a few years ago, the program was floundering.
The Wildcats’ PR drums are banging about this fall’s team celebrating a conference football championship for the first time in 84 years, which the Wildcats achieved last Saturday with a comeback 34-24 victory at Texas Wesleyan to clinch the Sooner Athletic Conference championship and their first berth in the NAA national college football playoffs, as the No. 21 seed. They have the best season winning percentage (.900) and most season wins (9) in the state, and in the modern era for Louisiana Christian University, formerly known as Louisiana College.
Parenthetical note: It’s still privately known as Louisiana College among many alumni, who weren’t consulted about the name change that happened out of the blue (and orange) almost two years ago.
Nonetheless, it’s a marvel to think the little college “on the hill” in Pineville is enjoying such unprecedented football success, even if the Wildcats are doing so at the NAIA level, rather than the previous NCAA Division III level.
The architect of this upsurge is a 36-year-old Minden High graduate and former Glenbrook School coach, Andrew John Maddox, who answers to the name “Drew.”
A Shreveport native and former Army cavalry scout who did two tours of duty in Iraq, Maddox inherited a football program in 2020 that had deteriorated significantly from the days when he played defensive tackle for the Wildcats under Dennis Dunn, his former Dixie Youth baseball coach in Shreveport. It had bottomed out in an even shorter time since he had risen through the assistant coaching ranks to be defensive coordinator at LCU under Justin Charles in 2017.
In the meantime, Maddox built a head coaching resume by resurrecting Glenbrook’s football program in Minden over two seasons. Then he got the call to try to do the same at LCU. To make the challenge tougher, he took over on Feb. 6 in 2020 and had all of two meetings with his new team when Covid and the feds shut everything down for several months. The Cats played an abbreviated schedule in the spring of ’21, finishing 2-3 in the American Southwest Conference.
LCU then switched from NCAA Division III to NAIA, but the football team was a lone wolf in finding a conference in which to play because all the other sports teams at LCU went to the Red River Athletic Conference, where none of the schools play football. The closest NAIA football league LCU could find, said Maddox, was the Sooner Athletic Conference, which has eight other teams from Texas, Oklahoma and Arizona.
“That allowed us to get some scholarship money,” said Maddox, who doles out that money along with some academic scholarship funds to recruit players. In his first full season, the fall of ’21, his team finished 4-7 but lost four games by less than a touchdown. Last year, the Wildcats finished 7-4 for the first winning season since his senior year, 2014 (remember, he served two tours with the Army in Iraq), when the Wildcats went 6-4.
Now, they are 9-1 overall and won a tiebreaker with Texas Wesleyan, who like the Wildcats finished 7-1 in league play. LCU’s lone loss was by three points at Ottawa University of Arizona (OUAZ).
How did it get to this point, where the dramatic victory Saturday assured winning a tiebreaker in the SAC with previously unbeaten TWU and earned a first-round playoff game Saturday against No. 20 Baker (8-2) at Liston Stadium in Baldwin City, Kansas?
For one, Maddox made a bold and impressive hire last spring, bringing his old high school coach, David Feaster, to LCU to be the offensive coordinator. Yes, Minden and Glenbrook prep football fans – your former head coach.
Feaster boasts an impressive 188-77 record as a high school head coach at six stops over two decades: Many, Minden, Leesville, Parkway, D’Arbonne Woods and Glenbrook Academy. As a senior in 2004 at Minden, Maddox played for Feaster, who was in his first season as head coach of the Crimson Tide.
Feaster’s trademark has been dynamic offenses. This season, in his college coaching debut, Feaster has overseen an LCU offense that ranks in the top five of all NAIA teams in total yards average, red zone scores, red zone touchdowns and first downs.
Feaster’s son Sammy is a Wildcats’ receiver who, by the way, scored the go-ahead touchdown last Saturday on a 70-yard reception from Sal Palermo III. The tie-breaker clincher came on a 40-yard field goal with no time left on the clock by Hunter Mertens. Coach Feaster’s younger son, Ty, the former Glenbrook star, is the senior QB at Alexandria Senior High, one of Class 5A’s second-round playoff teams.
Adding Feaster to the staff has helped Maddox take the Wildcats to another level, with a simple core philosophy.
“Work hard and believe in what you do,” said Maddox. “God’s been good to me. The players bought in. If players buy in, you can probably turn things around.
“I took a disciplined approach,” he added. “If you don’t lift weights, you don’t practice. If you don’t practice, you don’t play. It’s built on hard work and trying to do the right thing. There are no short cuts to being good.”
Palermo, the fifth-year senior quarterback from the Denham Springs neighboring town of Watson, calls Maddox “a great leader, not just in football but in life as well. He’s a great Christian leader, he helps us be good men, and that translates to us being good football players.”
On a team blessed with several fourth- and fifth-year players, Palermo said Maddox “preached from Day 1 that all our work will pay off. He said, ‘If you work, things will change.’ We’re seeing that.”
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