Countdown to Kickoff 2023: Vancleave Bulldogs

Published: Aug. 13, 2023 at 10:23 PM CDT
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VANCLEAVE, Miss. (WLOX) - Respect. Effort. Hard-nosed football.

That’s the Vancleave way.

The Bulldogs enter 2023 seeking back-to-back second-round playoff appearances for the first time since they accomplished the feat three consecutive years between 2013 and 2015.

“Every year is exciting, but every year is different also,” head coach Kevin Fant said. And yeah, we got a lot of praise from last year, but if you don’t put the work in and you don’t do everything you need to do, that can turn around and be the bad end, too. So, I try to preach to the guys that last year was great and enjoy it, but it’s a new year.”

A team of more than 85 players has some key athletes coming back. But of those 85, almost 40 of them are freshmen, meaning the senior class has an opportunity to leave their mark on the future of the program.

“They have to leave some kind of foundation with this young group of guys and show them how we play football in Vancleave,” Fant claimed.

“The seniors from last year left a foundation,” said senior Maison Kleist. “We’re just trying to keep that foundation strong and even build it more.”

“I just want to leave my mark for the younger kids because they’re next up,” added senior quarterback Hunter Parker.

Friday nights between late August and early November in Vancleave are a ghost town. The community rallies around their Bulldogs, creating a special environment at home and on the road.

“The community is great in Vancleave,” Parker said. “It always has been. I feel like the community comes out and supports us every game, even if we are playing an hour and a half, 2 hours away. They show up and show out, and I love that. "

“I expect great things because our fans have always shown up,” Fant added. “There have even been several away games throughout the years that we have more fans than some of the home teams.”

Head coach Kevin Fant is entering his fifth season at the helm of Vancleave, and his athletes could not be more excited to learn from his experiences.

“He has a lot of experience, and he helps me out a lot,” Parker said. “It’s nice having a guy that came from a quarterback position and now as a coach, he’s a very good coach.”

“It’s a great opportunity to be able to be coached by him,” sophomore running back Kyle Capers said. “He teaches you a lot of stuff.”

Despite new regions beginning this season, the goal stays the same.

“Try and make it to the state championship because that’s everybody’s end-of-the-year goal,” said Parker “But we’re going to take it in one game at a time and go from there and get better from our mistakes in the games.”

“Success for me has never been wins and losses,” Fant said “I really mean it when I tell our guys that if I believe they give me everything they have and we play the best game possible and we get respect from the other team, I’m happy.”

The Bulldogs open the season at home against St. Martin.

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