25 Teams in 25 Days

Vancleave football aims for another postseason run

When the season is on the line, the Vancleave football team has proven up to the task in recent years.

The Bulldogs have played their best football when it’s counted the last three years, winning a total of five playoff games during that stretch.

Lavon Capers replaced Jim Bloomfield as head coach last season and kept the momentum rolling for the program. The Bulldogs upset East Central in the season finale to clinch a postseason spot and managed to take down Mendenhall and Purvis in the playoffs before falling 35-21 to Lawrence County in the South State semifinals.

How is it that Vancleave has managed to overcome early stumbles and hit its stride entering the playoffs the last three years?

“As a general rule, we have to replace quite a bit of starters on both sides of the football year in and year out,” Capers said. “Usually our kids are seniors before they really, really develop for whatever reason. I think as a young football player, athletic ability and speed are a key and can kind of get you by. We’re not blessed with a lot of speed. As they mature and get older, they understand the speed of the game. That becomes an attribute for the kids.

“Our kids never give up. They have to put the hard work in and want to be successful. It’s a matter of really trusting the coaches and believing.”

Vancleave, which finished 6-8 last year, started off the 2016 season Friday with a 49-6 loss to Stone High in one of the more surprising outcomes of the opening week.

Early bye

The Bulldogs enter a rare bye week in the second week of the season, but Capers is glad to have the extra time to prepare for the Sept. 2 game at Gautier.

“I think it’s an excellent time to have an off week,” Capers said. “We’ve got a lot of things we’ve got to correct. A lot of teams make their biggest gains from week one to week two. It’s kind of a blessing. We’ll have to really focus on technique and fundamentals.

“We have to worry more about us than the opponent.”

Vancleave is breaking in a first-year starter at quarterback, 6-foot-4 senior Kenny Goff, who completed 8 of 15 passes for 81 yards against Stone High.

“I think he did a good job,” Capers said. “He actually had two balls dropped. I think he did fine for the first game facing that type of team. Obviously, he has room to improve, but that’s everybody.”

The ground game never got going against Stone High, but Vancleave has multiple options to carry the ball this season. Senior David Capers, junior Tristan Glass, senior Hunter Williams and senior Chris Jimison should all get plenty of touches this season.

Jimison also had a nice start to the season in the passing game, pulling in four receptions for 41 yards.

Williams is a 6-foot-1, 210-pound running back who has a nice mixture of power and speed while David Capers is effective as a power back. Capers accounted for the only score for Vancleave last week on a 7-yard touchdown run.

Senior tackle Alex Fuller is the only starter back on the offensive line. The other tackle is 6-foot-1, 240-pound junior Quinton Murphy. The two guards senior Kaydan Chapman and senior Chris Woods. Sophomore Caleb Bicknell is at center.

Vancleave features a solid linebacking corps led by David Capers and Williams. The other two backers are junior Tristan Glass and senior Kanin Miller.

David Capers was one of the top tacklers on the Coast last year with 162.

Senior defensive end Mitchell Rea, who missed last week, is the only starter back on the defensive line for the Bulldogs. He is joined by sophomore Kelsie Green and junior defensive end Jacob Miller.

Senior Rhad Carter and sophomore Christian Johnson are in their first season as starters at cornerback. Junior Xavier Bass and freshman Kena Stephens are the two safeties.

At a glance

2015 record: 6-8

Region: 8-4A

Head coach: Lavon Capers

Assistant coaches: David Chatham, Todd Alford, Daniel Best, Jimmy Booth, Tim Jordan, Moses Bates

Offense: Multiple

Defense: Multiple

2016 roster

1 Rhad Carter

2 Xavier Bass

3 Kelsie Green

4 Cory Migues

5 Kena Stephens

7 David Capers

8 Tristan Glass

9 Alex Strong

10 Chris Jimison

11 Roy Johnson

12 Jimmy Bates

13 Mason Chalette

14 Nick Sanders

15 Kenny Goff

16 Drake Posey

17 Garrett Dean

19 Austin Aycock

20 Hunter Bragg

21 Neal Fuller

22 Cody Bean

23 Kyle Carew

24 Matthew Geis

25 Hunter Williams

26 Christian Johnson

27 Lane Wise

30 Kanin Miller

31 Gauge Mallette

32 Brandon Barton

33 Chase Aubry

34 Brandon Payne

35 Trenton Cantrell

40 Chris Barker

42 Josh Grayson

44 Koby Whittle

48 J-Wes Small

50 Rodolpho Hernandez

51 Alex Fuller

52 D.J. Brewer

53 Vaughn Ethan

54 Quinton Murphy

55 Gabriel Garcia

56 Kurt Galo

58 Hudson Massey

59 Caleb Bicknell

60 Tyler McCoy

61 Jarret Thompson

62 Mitchell Rhea

63 Josh Hooper

64 Mikey McCoy

65 Zach Overstreet

66 Chris Woods

67 John Bonham

68 Jacob Miller

69 Austin Thomley

70 Andrew Crow

71 Ethan Johnson

72 Gavin Page

73 Austin Seymour

74 Cameron Green

75 Caleb Buza

76 Mike Manna

77 Matthew Dixon

78 Jacob Davis

79 Kayden Chapman

80 Tyler Small

81 Austin Roach

82 Ethan Wade

83 Garrison Adkins

84 Shawn Long

85 Jacob Catchott

90 Jeb Wells

2016 lineup

Offense

QB Kenny Goff

FB David Capers

FB Hunter Williams

Slot Chris Jimison

Slot Tritan Glass

WR Xavier Bass

WR Lane Wise

G Kaydan Chapman

G Chris Woods

T Alex Fuller

T Quinton Murphy

C Caleb Bicknell

Defense

DE Mithcell Rhea

NT Kelsie Green

DE Jacob Miller

OLB Tristan Glass

OLB Hunter Williams

ILB David Capers

ILB Kanin Miller

CB Rhad Carter

CB Christian Johnson

SS Xavier Bass

FS Kena Stephens

2016 schedule

Aug. 19

STONE

Aug. 26

Bye

Sept. 2

At Gautier

Sept. 9

LONG BEACH

Sept. 16

At Greene County

Sept. 23

NORTHVIEW (Fla.)

Sept. 30

ST. STANISLAUS

Oct. 7

At Moss Point

Oct. 14

BAY HIGH

Oct. 21

At Pass Christian

Oct. 28

At East Central

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