LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Michael Whitley runs a drill during practice Thursday afternoon at the Vidalia High School practice field. Whitley will be a junior in the fall when he starts as the VHS varsity football quarterback.

Vikings look for change

Published 12:01am Friday, May 11, 2012

VIDALIA — Michael Whitley wasn’t shy to give his true feelings about last season.

The Vidalia High School quarterback said he was ready to hit the ground running during the Vikings’ first day of spring training Thursday. And if Vidalia is to turn its football fortunes around, Whitley said the team’s attitude has to change.

“Our mindset last year was, we were just playing to play,” Whitley said. “We weren’t playing to win. We had no heart, no pride.”

The cure for that, Whitley said, is for the team to put in as much hard work as they can between now and the start of the season.

“I have to work harder, way harder, all day,” Whitley said. “I’m just trying to work hard. It ain’t going to be like that again — it ain’t.”

Vidalia head coach Gary Parnham Jr. said he and the other coaches are trying to get the mindset of the team to change after the Vikings have gone a combined 2-18 the past two seasons.

“We have to try to get a winning attitude around here, a no-quit attitude,” Parnham said. “We definitely have to change our mindset, Vidalia football-wise.”

The quest to change the mindset began Thursday with footwork drills, and Parnham said he’s going to stress the basics during the team’s seven-day spring training period. The Vikings will likely begin physicality drills Monday, Parnham said.

“We’re just basically getting our legs warmed up with basic drills,” Parnham said. “It does help quicken their feet up. We only have 10 days of spring practice allotted to us, and we’re going to take seven of them and stick with fundamentals — tackling, blocking, things like that.”

Parnham said the team has been lifting weights all spring, but with him coaching the Lady Vikings in softball as well, Parnham admitted it’s tough to oversee both programs.

“I have two really good softball assistants that kind of get practice started and allow me to work in the weight room,” Parnham said. “When I’m done with that, I can make it out to (softball) practice.”

Parnham said he has approximately 20 new players joining his squad, including 10 or so that have never played football before. With a nucleus of players returning from last year’s team, Parnham said he hopes his players won’t be as green as they were last fall.

“It’s not as bad as starting over like we did last year,” Parnham said. “We’re a little more experienced, but we have only eight seniors, so we’re still going to be a pretty young football team.”

Parnham said he’s looking to those eight for leadership, especially when it comes to changing the team’s mindset.

“I hope they step up and want to change the atmosphere and the things that have been going on — the losing, basically,” Parnham said.

Parnham also said he has a number of eighth graders coming out to practice that will be freshmen in the fall.

“If they can win a spot, they’re going to play,” Parnham said. “We’ve always been that way. We started I think it was eight freshmen last year, so the best are going to play.”