Before Don Shows took over the football coaching reins at West Monroe High School in 1989, the Rebels had the reputation of looking like Tarzan, but playing like Jane.
Physically, West Monroe players at that time had been as impressive as those at any school in the state. One of the school’s early products, Jerry Stovall, was second in Heisman Trophy voting as a senior at LSU and later returned as the Tigers’ head coach after playing in the National Football League. Shawn King, a defensive end on Shows’ first West Monroe team, also went on to play in the NFL.
For two generations, many West Monroe linemen were imposing physical specimens. But the Rebels made only two playoff appearances before 1989, and both resulted in first-round exits. They had never won a district championship, and had not won a district game in the previous five seasons.
Shows left himself a tough act to follow in his first two years as a head coach at Jonesboro-Hodge High. His first team won 13 games before bowing to John Curtis 45-0 in the state championship game at the Superdome. He had a 23-3 record in two years at Jonesboro-Hodge.
Then he made the move that put him on the path to the Louisiana High School Coaches’ Association Hall of Fame . He went into college coaching.
He coached linebackers for one year at Northeast Louisiana (which is now the University of Louisiana-Monroe.) He coached the offensive line for three years at Northwestern State. During that span, he learned how to build a winning program.
“The main thing I learned from Sam Goodwin at Northwestern was that you don’t have to have the biggest players, or the best players, to win,” Shows said.
Shows’ first two teams at West Monroe had 5-5 records. Then the Rebels started a streak of 11 consecutive winning seasons.
West Monroe had to beat Ruston in its final regular-season game in 1993 to earn a share of the District 2-5A championship. The Rebels took care of that business, 24-20, and then beat Airline 31-7 in their first playoff game. Then, in a rematch with Ruston, West Monroe won again, 20-7. A 27-20 win over Carencro, led by future LSU and NFL standout Kevin Faulk, set up a semifinal matchup with No. 1-ranked St. Augustine in New Orleans.
St. Augustine, which had allowed only one touchdown in its previous six games, scored the game’s first touchdown. Then West Monroe’s Larry Wright returned the ensuing kickoff 81 yards for a touchdown, and the Rebels went on to score a 34-33 overtime victory.
“They came straight at us with the basic dive and veer option,” said St. Augustine coach Anthony Biagas, “and we never stopped them.”
Two years later, West Monroe started a run of six consecutive district championships. The Rebels made six straight trips to the Louisiana Superdome, winning four Class 5A titles and dropping a 20-14 decision to an Evangel Christian Academy team that was ranked No. 1 in four national polls at the end of the 1999 season, and a 34-27 decision to another nationally-ranked Evangel team in 2001.
West Monroe won its first outright district championship in 1996, and then scored a 13-6 playoff victory over a Natchitoches-Central team that handed the Rebels their only regular-season loss. Shows was selected “Coach of the Year” by the Louisiana Sports Writers’ Association for the third time.
A year later, the Rebels wrapped up the first perfect season (14-0) in the school’s history with a 22-19 Superdome victory over Archbishop Shaw. That team allowed only 14 points in its first four playoff games.
Jerry Byrd is the former sports editor of the Bossier Press-Tribune and an award-winning columnist. You can contact him by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org