The final chapter in Northview’s 41-year history came to a close Tuesday with graduation ceremonies.
Its athletic history ended less than two weeks ago when the school’s softball team was eliminated in the postseason regional tournament.
The school consolidates next year with Dothan to form the Dothan High Wolves.
Through the 41 years, there were plenty of highs in Cougar athletics – with a couple of team state championships, near state champions and several individual state champions as well as notable pro athletes.
But when most people think of Northview’s athletic history, it usually centers on football’s 1981 and 1985 state championship teams, the school’s only team titles.
“We had a lot of great players that played together and loved Northview,” said Harry Wayne Parrish of the two title teams. Parrish was head coach of both teams during a 13-year stint at the school.
After opening with 6-4, 9-2 and 7-3 records in the program’s first three seasons, the 1981 team set the standard for all Cougar teams, finishing 13-1 and winning the Class 4A state championship (the biggest classification at the time ) at Birmingham’s Legion Field, 7-6 over Carver of Birmingham.
“One day in the weight room, I had a little issue with them (freshmen) because they were not doing what they were supposed to do and I got on them,” Parrish said. “I was told later by several players that they decided that day in the weight room, ‘We are going to win the state championship before we graduate.’
“So they had a goal from day one that that was what they were going to do and they worked really hard to get there.”
After beating Carroll 28-6 and Prattville 21-14 in overtime to open the season, the Cougars fell to Sidney Lanier on a Thursday night in Montgomery, 28-24, in a 4A, Region 3 contest.
In those days, only the top team in the region made the playoffs. With four region games left, the Cougars couldn’t afford to lose again.
They won the remaining 11 games to finish out 13-1. Both the 13 wins and the 11-game winning streak remain as school records.
“We got beat by Lanier and after that game, you thought we lost the world,” Parrish said. “They were devastated by that loss, but that probably turned us into making sure they didn’t lose again.”
Another key came a week later in a 35-20 win over Crisp County (Ga.) as starting quarterback David Alford tore his knee and was lost for the season, but Dickey Lillard took over and was solid in running the Cougars’ wishbone offense the rest of the year, said Parrish.
After finishing the regular season with wins over rivals Enterprise (17-6) and Dothan (10-3), Northview defeated Murphy, led by eventual Auburn quarterback Pat Washington, 17-14, Foley 28-12 and Jeff Davis 10-7 in the playoffs to reach the title game against Carver.
After a scoreless first half, the Cougars scored early in the third quarter on an 8-yard pass from Lillard to Larry Roberts, who would later star as a defensive end with the San Francisco 49ers. Alan Lopez, who had nine field goals during the season, converted the extra point, making it 7-0.
Carver scored in the third quarter’s final minute, returning a blocked punt 23 yards for a touchdown. However, the point after kick was missed. It turned out to be the difference in the game.
“That was a knock-down, drag - out game,” Parrish said. “Both teams deserved to win, but we happened to make one more play than they did.”
That team was led by defense behind coordinator Randy Hicks and coaches Bubba Johnson and Floyd Griffin. The Cougars allowed only 9.9 points a game. The offense, meanwhile, averaged a modest 20.6 a game.
Four years later, Northview won its second state title.
It came after 1-3 start to the season with losses to Lee of Montgomery (14-8), Sidney Lanier (14-9) and Choctawhatchee (Fla.) (24-17).
Like it did in 1981, the Cougars surged, winning 10 of the last 11, losing only to rival Dothan 13-10.
“I knew we were good because we played everybody close,” Parrish said. “We just hadn’t put it together. We ran the run-and-shoot then and about the seventh week, at practice one day, it just clicked. You could see right then the quarterbacks and receivers, it all meshed. When they did, nobody could stop us.”
In the playoffs, Northview defeated Opelika 23-17, Central-Phenix City 10-0 and Lee of Montgomery 28-27 before edging Fairhope in the semifinals 17-14 in overtime on Clark Lopez’s 27-yard field goal.
In the championship, the Cougars blew out Huffman 32-15, scoring 32 straight points after the Patriots grabbed a quick 7-0 first-quarter lead. Aristotle Kirkland’s 85-yard fumble return for a touchdown ignited the NHS surge. Bernard Nomberg threw three touchdown passes to David Hogan and Issac Salter added a 53-yard TD run.
“That was a Cinderella team,” Parrish said. “We had some talent, but mainly we had kids that worked every day and were very determined to win for Northview. We were not a state championship team by talent, but were because we had Northview players bleeding Northview.”
That team was dubbed by the media as the Cardiac Cougars. Northview played a state-record five overtime games that year, winning four of those.
Northview finished its 41-year history with a 194-232 record in football, a 45.5 percentage over 426 games.
Four Cougar players made it to the NFL – Roberts (1986-93, 49ers), Izell Reese (Dallas 1998-04), Lawrence Dawsey (1991-99, Tampa Bay, N.Y. Giants, New Orleans) and Marquez White (current, Dallas).
In addition to football, Northview also had a rich history in the spring sports of soccer, softball, baseball and tennis.
The boys soccer team earned two state runner-up finishes (1997 and 2015) and reached the state semifinals five other times since 1998, while the girls soccer team reached the semifinals four times, including three straight from 2016-18.
The softball team, during the slow-pitch era, finished as a state runner-up in 1999 and in the top four in 1996-98 as well as third in fast-pitch in 2009, one of four fast-pitch trips to the state tournament.
Baseball reached the state quarterfinals five teams (1999, 2002, 2010, 2011 and 2014) with three teams earning 30 or more wins, including a school record 33 in 2011. The baseball Cougars also produced major league baseball players in Gabe Gross (Toronto, Milwaukee, Tampa Bay, Oakland), Clint Robinson (Kansas City, Toronto, Los Angeles Dodgers) and Barry Hightower (N.Y. Mets/San Diego Padres).
Though the school didn’t have a team title in tennis, it did have several win state titles, including three-time No. 1 singles champion Chase Parker (2016-18, now at UAB). Harris Barnard (2009) and Jay Lurie (2000) also won at No. 1 singles at the highest classification. Emily Newton, meanwhile, was a two-time No. 1 singles state champion (2009-10) for the girls team.
There was also a six-time individual champion in swimming in Wen Zhang, who won the 100 and 200 freestyles three straight years (2017-19) and signed with Air Force.
Northview also competed in boys and girls basketball, girls and boys cross country, girls and boys track and field, girls and boys bowling, boys golf and boys wrestling in its history.