LSWA Coach of the Year Award Winners
This is the unedited article that I wrote for Jerry Byrd's Football Country Magazine.
Dragon Tales ...by Ray Butler
It is one of the most consistent football programs in the state. It has been for years. It has a tailgate area that rivals small colleges. They have made three straight state final appearances in the Superdome and have a string of running backs that keep piling up touchdowns and yards year after year.
Most people are not “going to Mangham.” Most people are “passing through Mangham,” unless it happens to be a Fall Friday night. If that is the case, the last thing you want to hear is Prince’s ‘Purple Rain.’ That is what visiting football teams hear over the sound system after the Dragons have recorded another victory on their home field. And they play it a lot. This senior class has only lost one home district game and no home playoff games.
Kind of there but not seen, Mangham is located in a corner of Richland Parish between Rayville and Winnsboro on Highway 425. The population is only about 650 people. It has no red lights, only a couple of gas stations, and a few businesses and churches. It is quintessential Louisiana small town football. You can smell it in the air on cool Friday nights.
Everyone is involved in the program. Everyone’s dad played football. Everyone’s grandfather played football. As their current head coach put it, “We don’t play soccer, we don’t play golf, and we don’t twirl wooden guns. We play football.”
In 1981, the LHSAA started playing all the state championships in the Superdome. Since then Mangham has 42 total playoff wins. That is the 15th most by all public schools in the state. In that same 35 years the Dragons have made the playoffs 32 times.
The 1950’s were the glory days of Richland Parish football. It had 4 different schools make the state finals in 2 different classifications for a total of 9 appearances. Delhi made it to the finals in ’50, ’51, ’54, ’55, ’57, and ‘ 59. Holly Ridge made it in Class B in 1958. Rayville played in the championship in Class A in 1953. The only Richland Parish teams that won a championship in that era were Delhi’s 1951 and 1957 teams and the ’56 Mangham Dragons. The 1956 Mangham team won it’s only football state championship. Coach Armed Matthews completed the only perfect season in the history of the school, by defeating Donaldsonville in a defensive slugfest, 2-0.
Since the LHSAA started using power rankings in 1999, Mangham has made the playoffs all 17 years with an average power ranking of 14, with a #1 ranking in 2014. Twelve out of those 17 years the Dragons hosted a playoff game the first round.
In the Mangham Superdome runs over the last three years, their offense has led the way by scoring almost 40 points a game in a “ball control” offense. They have won a total of 34 games and two district titles. They have also won 10 playoff games. Only Kinder, Neville, Acadiana, and Haynesville have more playoff wins in that time period.
Present day coach Tommy Tharp and his dragons have won the state runner-up trophy three years in a row. It is only the second time that’s ever happened in the history of Louisiana high school football. Scott Bairnsfather’s Shaw team did it in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Tharp, a Logtown native and schoolmate of Neville’s Mickey McCarty, runs a version of the wing-T called the “Dragon Wing.” He and Offensive Coordinator Mike Wilson have turned an old school offense into a high-powered ground attack that is producing All-State running backs and eating up defenses across the state. It’s a combination of smoke, mirrors, misdirection, and power, but it has piled up 14 Touchdowns and 1098 yards so far this season.
Tharp, a graduate of St. Fredrick in Monroe, came to Mangham in 2009 and has a record of 67-23 with three District Titles. He is 13-1 against all other Richland Parish schools. His only loss was a one touchdown, regular season loss to Rayville, which was avenged by a 41-6 victory in the State Semi-finals last year. A great start to what Mangham hopes is a long career there. All these wins, all this history, take a backseat in the conversation when you ask most people to give one word that describes or sums up Mangham football. Moose.
Keith “Moose” Munyan became the head coach at Mangham in 1963. He implemented an unbalanced offensive line and a mash mouth attitude and carved out a 27 year Hall of Fame career, which is something you would expect out of someone who joined the Marines and went to Paris Island because his mother would not buy him a motorcycle. After going to Louisiana College as a scholarship player and later signing an $8,000 NFL contract with the Houston Oilers for a short stint, he started his coaching career in Leesville as an assistant for 4 years. A dragon monument inside the stadium lists his record at 204-78-6 in his tenure as head coach. He won District Coach of the Year and District Championships many times, in a district that included great teams like Oak Grove and Ouachita Christian. With membership in the LHSAA and Louisiana College Hall of Fames, he is one of the most decorated coaches in Louisiana football history. Coach Munyan is such a big deal in Mangham, that when the State Runner-up trophy was given to Coach Jay Roy Mount in 1995 in the Superdome, Moose was the person who presented it to him.
One thing that eluded Coach Munyan was a state title. Like all coaches since 1956, the state championship has been just out of reach. Mangham has a total of 4 runner-up trophies. In the 1995 championship game, Mangham was ahead 26-7 at halftime against Logansport, but gave up the lead and had a heart wrenching 1 point loss. Most Mangham people can’t talk about it. Most don’t want to hear about Robert Davis, the Logansport receiver who made 5 catches for 5 touchdowns for 223 yards. It was a bitter ending to a great season.
In his first 7 years, Coach Tharp has reached the finals as many times as every other head coach in Mangham’s history combined, but has yet to win a state championship. It is something they work hard for. From the Principal, to the assistant coaches, to the water boy, to the community, everyone is on the same page. Exactly 60 years after their only title, the Dragons hope 2016 will be the year for the second. In 2013 and 2014 they had the unheard of task of playing 17-time state champion, Haynesville, in the Dome back to back. Haynesville was 28-1 in that 2-year stretch. Their only blemish was losing 1 game to Mangham’s Big Creek Rival, 4A Franklin Parish in 2014. In 2015, Mangham had an overachieving team that moved up a classification and lost to another dynasty in the Kinder Yellow Jackets.
The 2016 edition of the Dragons has raced to a 3-0 start in non-district play. The offensive line has played a big part in that. They will be anchored by Senior Bryan Cupp, who will be trying to pave the way for 2014 All-State Running Back Jakarie Nichols. This is by anyone’s standards a rebuilding year for Mangham, but after 3 straight years in the Dome and 14 playoff games under their belt, these seniors are tested. Don’t be surprised if the Dragons are playing in early December again.
Nichols is nothing new at Mangham. They produce All-State running backs. Nine of them to be exact and one of them, Roosevelt Straughter was All-State twice. It is what they do. Mangham was noticeably different in the their 21-7 Jamboree loss to St. Fredrick because of the absence of Nichols. Since his return, the offense has taken off. Nichols has carried the ball 41 times in the first three games for 480 yards and 9 Touchdowns. Carrying the ball for almost 12 yards a rush will put the offense in great shape for the rest of the year. Senior running backs, Donovan Haynes and Rodney Hardmon also make up a large part of the rushing attack by accumulating 379 yards and 4 TDs. Freshman Tyler Haynes has come in and given depth to the backfield that has rushed for 1000 yards in three weeks. Senior Quarterback Chris Fleming is the field general who directs the offense. He has modest passing numbers but keeps defenses honest by going 8 for 13 for 57 yards on two TDs. At barely 5’10 and 150 pounds he doesn’t stand out physically, but Coach Tharp believes he could be one of the best they have ever had.
On the other side of the ball, defensive coordinator Scott Wilcher felt the defense would be led by seniors Brandon Cleary, Amariss Chisley, and Hunter Roberts. Defensively the Dragons have forced 6 turnovers and made 7 sacks in their first three games. Chisley and Roberts are averaging around 8 tackles a game and along with the performances of Juniors Austin Payne, Andrew Sevier, and Randy Gayden, the defense is shaping up to be a good one. Having your All-State running back, Nichols, flip over and play free safety puts the icing on the cake.
With a great staff that seems to enjoy every second they have with the program and a great group a players, it should be another great season in the land of Dragons...
Mangham Playoff History 1981-2015
Overall Playoff Record: 42-32
Mangham Coaches that have coached in the Superdome Prep Classic
Mangham, Richland Parish, Louisiana
4 Time State Runner-up
1995, 2013, 2014, 2015
19 Time District Champion
1937, 1956, 1959, 1968, 1969*, 1977, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1988*, 1993, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2005, 2013, 2014
40 Playoff Appearances
1937, 1956, 1959, 1964, 1965, 1968, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
Forty-four L.S.W.A. First Team Football All-State Selections