Tommy Moore enjoys Northwood football's season for numerous reasons | Marcase

John Marcase
Special to The Town Talk

A few days after Tommy Moore was announced as Northwood-Lena’s football coach last spring, a friend approached to congratulate him.

“Admitting you have a problem is the first step,” joked the friend.

Moore and his wife, Leslie, laughed.

RAISING FOR A CURE:Northwood-Gueydan game to raise awareness for St. Jude

It was a nervous laugh because they knew there may be no more difficult football coaching job in Central Louisiana. Over the years, the Gators have enjoyed sporadic success as Rapides Parish’s smallest football-playing school.

Leesville coach Tommy Moore

Tom O’Kelly spent three decades coaching the Gators, absorbing many a defeat, especially when Northwood shared the same district with Shreveport-based Evangel in the 1990s.

But O’Kelly showed winning was possible, guiding the program to several playoff appearances. He also spearheaded the building of what is one of the nicer Class 1A football stadiums in the state behind the school located off I-49, just north of Boyce. That field now bears his name.

In stepped Moore, a native of Mississippi who came west to coach in Louisiana, serving as coach at Leesville and Natchitoches Central, which are traditionally two of the better programs in Central Louisiana.

NEW ROLE FOR RAPIDES PARISH SPORTS:Alan Fontenot steps into new role for Rapides Parish students and athletes | Marcase

Moore is enjoying this season with the Gators as much as any in his career. It’s not just Northwood’s 5-5 regular-season record, nor the fact the Gators will host a home playoff game for just the third time since 2002.

Moore is relishing the time back on the sidelines thanks to his children, daughter Corley, and son, Thomas.

Thomas Moore serves as the ball boy for his dad, Northwood-Lena coach Tommy Moore. Northwood hosted a fundraiser for St. Jude's earlier this season as a way to thank the children's hospital for its treatment of Thomas after he was born.

“It’s been fun and a blessing they get to be around the team,” said Moore Monday.

Earlier this season, Northwood hosted a fundraiser game to benefit St. Jude’s. It was personal for the Moore family. Thomas was born with a cyst instead of a right eye. Concern that it might be cancerous led to Thomas being treated for 18 months by St. Jude’s. Today, Thomas is healthy, plays baseball and serves as the Gators’ ball boy, while Corley serves as the water girl.

“My dad was a high school football coach and it’s how my brothers and I grew up,” said Tommy Moore. “I get to see them at practice and how they interact with the team. They’ve adopted them as their little brother and little sister.

NORTHWOOD FOOTBALL:Prep Notebook: Northwood to honor longtime coach O'Kelly with field dedication

“Whether we win or lose, they’re gonna love on you and kiss you anyway and that takes the sting out of losing.”

Using Northwood’s history as a guide, this has been a successful regular season for the Gators.

“Things fell right for us as far as scheduling,” said Moore. “We won the ball games we were supposed to win. We’ve grown up as a football team.”

Corley Moore (right) serves as the water girl for the Northwood-Lena football team. Her dad, Tommy Moore, has guided the Gators to a 5-5 season and a first-round home playoff game, just the third in program history.

That was evident last week when Northwood hosted longtime district rival Block to close the regular season. The Gators prevailed in overtime, 32-26, for what may have been the first OT win in school history. It also snapped a two-game losing streak.

“I put more pressure on myself than the administration,” said Moore. “I put pressure on myself so the kids can be successful and experience (winning) such as what we did Thursday night – which was winning a football game in overtime. The kids showed a lot of emotion they haven’t shown before.

“Tom O’Kelly said it was the first time Northwood has won a game in overtime,” he added.

Now, Moore will attempt to lead the Gators to their first home playoff victory. Standing in their way is Gueydan, a team that beat the Gators, 22-20, in the second week.

“Our goal is to win our first playoff game and see where that takes us,” said Moore. “Winning a game in the playoffs may create more interest in the program inside the school building.

“We’re trying to build a foundation and have the seniors leave a legacy. They are doing special things that haven’t been done here in 15 or 16 years.”

John Marcase is a former assistant managing editor and sports editor of The Town Talk. He writes a weekly column.