As the start of high school football draws near, so does the end of News 25’s ’25 Teams in 25 Days.’
Rounding out the 4A teams is Vancleave High School, where the first year of the Kevin Fant Era is about to begin.
Serving as the 21st stop on tour, the Bulldogs are channeling the musical stylings of Jerry Reed heading into 2019.
Head Coach Kevin Fant said, “Human nature, people don’t like change sometimes. But sometimes change is good, and what I’ve been preaching to them already this week is let’s fix us. We’ve got to do the little things right. If we fix us, then we have a chance Friday night.”
The Bulldogs were already in a good spot under Lavon Capers, having shown improvement in each of the past two seasons. But for a Vancleave program still in search of its first winning season since 2013, it’s a clean slate nonetheless. Full back/ running back Neal Fuller said, “Getting a new coach. I mean our mentality is greatly increased. Love the guy, Coach Fant. New coach, new team. Play harder.”
Outside linebacker Brandon Payne said,”It’s just the energy. It’s just something in the – (something in the air?) Something in the air, man.”
That breath of fresh air comes on the back of two straight post-season appearances, although Vancleave hasn’t won a playoff game since making a run to the Class 4A quarterfinals in 2015.
Rediscovering that same level of success in the month of November now starts with a junk yard dog mentality. “Being 100 percent. All the time.”
“Play 100 percent. All the time. When the timer starts till the timer ends.”
“Even if you do all the little things right and you do everything right, you’re not guaranteed a championship. But you’re one step closer.”
For the Bulldogs, one step closer would mean building on last year’s overall mark of 5-6 and a district record of 2-3.
And then there’s the matter of getting that monkey off their backs and getting out of the first round. Quarterback Christian Kell said, “It just seems to be like an anchor there, and we need to get past it.”
“Well, you don’t want to be the anchor. You don’t want to be dragging. We talk about getting on the ship and not being an anchor and dragging us down so we can move forward, but one game at a time.”
Led by their 14-member senior class of 2020, the players say they’re running more and thinking less under the watch of Coach Fant. In other words, ‘keep your foot hard on the pedal, son never mind them brakes.’
“We’re just working hard and we’re ‘East Bound And Down.’ Said going in, it’s been a long little journey. And we’re learning a new offense, learning a new defense and got a long way to go and a short time to get there. So we’re just going to work hard and bring that effort every day.”
Vancleave opens with Gautier on Friday with kick off set for 7 p.m.