25 Teams in 25 Days: Vancleave Bulldogs

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Some junk yard dogs at Vancleave High School, checking in as stop number two on News 25’s 25 Teams in 25 Days. It’s also year number two of the Kevin Fant era, now just 32 days away and counting from the Bulldogs season opener.

As part of the junk yard dog culture at Vancleave High School, the team’s offseason program under second-year Head Coach Kevin Fant includes workout-based recognition given to five players in five different weight classes known as ‘dog soldiers.’ RT/DT Conner Mallette said, “Been working for that for two years because last year I didn’t get to do it because my back was hurting. It was hurt. It was injured, it wasn’t hurt.”

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QB/ FS Christian Kell said, “We work hard in the weight room to get that. I mean it means a lot to all of us. We want to be on there.”

With the 2020 campaign previously in doubt due to COVID-19, starting the season on September 4th against East Central now brings a whole new meaning to have it your way. “Yeah I was at Burger King, I was working. I was working in the back. I was putting some patties on the grill, and one of my coaches texted me and said I had a season.”

“Personally, with me playing baseball, I had some guys that missed out on their senior season. So for our seniors, we’re thinking that we might not even get this season, so we’re pushing ourselves and we want this season more than we’ve ever wanted any other season.”

Perhaps a blessing in disguise in terms of motivation as the Bulldogs look to improve upon last year’s overall mark of 5-6.

Despite three straight trips to the class 4A playoffs, Vancleave is still in search of its first post-season victory since 2015 and its first winning season since 2013. WR/ CB Devon Hand said, “We haven’t talked about it. We’ve just got to act. I mean these last two years, yeah, we went to the first round, lost in the first round. But I mean, got to bounce back.”

Coach Fant said, “You go talk to any football team, everybody wants to win state championships and everybody wants championships. And it’s, man, making improvements at every position. These guys give us everything they’ve got, and they try to play and they’re almost mistake-free and they’re playing with all-out effort, the scoreboard will speak for itself.”

Coronavirus uncertainty aside, the name of the game is still football. It’s up to Vancleave’s 14 seniors to live up to that JYD, junk yard dog, mentality as a means of not letting a global pandemic interfere with legacy and whatever else the Bulldogs had planned in 2020. “I just really want to play this year, man. COVID-19 really got me scared. I just want to play, man.”

“I just want to bring home the River Bowl trophy. I want to have a winning season. I want to go past the first round. I want to see how far we can go.”

“If a team beats us, they better pack their lunch because these guys work hard and that’s all I expect out of them.”

Vancleave lost games at Gautier in week one and at home against West Harrison in week two as a result of the season being delayed by two weeks.

Here’s a full list of the dog soldiers from Monday’s reveal, starting with the lowest weight class and working our way up:

  • Alec Simmons is the group one winner
  • Followed by Christian Kell in group two
  • Hunter Waltman in group three
  • Ethan Davis in group four
  • Conner Mallette in group five

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