It’s been a month since the North Little Rock Charging Wildcats won the 7A state championship, and it’s been a wild ride.
Head coach Johnny Rice and his players have been on the Trophy Tour with stops at the monthly school board meetings and the State Capitol.
Rice said it was hard to get wrapped up in the hype that surrounded championship week while trying to prepare a team to win their final game.
“When you have to get a team ready,” Rice said, “it’s hard to get caught up in all that.”
Rice went to his coaching fraternity about how to handle the extra pressures of leading up to the state title game against Fayetteville. There was always one common denominator.
“They all said just go out and make sure you have fun,” Rice said. “You don’t get this opportunity every year. Enjoy it.”
Rice made practices a bit more light hearted, and tried to take the pressure off of his team that most never gave a shot to make history from day one of the season.
“We knew we were talented,” Rice said. “It was just the fact that we hadn’t done in over 40 years.”
The Charging Wildcats proved their mettle time after time. NLR beat four teams that competed in state championship games in their respective classifications. They beat both 6A competitors including two wins over Jonesboro. They defeated Little Rock Hall in the Jamming for Jackets tournament as well as Fayetteville whom they won the state championship from. They also beat 5A champion Jacksonville.
“We proved that we were the best team,” Rice said.
Rice said the title win was very personal for him.
“I played in the system,” Rice said. “I was an assistant in the system and now as a head coach in the system, it was very special.”
Rice is all but assured that the job he accepted on an interim basis this season will be his permanently. The district will advertise in compliance with state law and present candidates including Rice to the school board in its next meeting.
Even if by some travesty that Rice doesn’t get hired, he is sure to land on a bench next season. After all, he is a state championship coach.