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Vidalia suits up in shoulder pads as fall practice intensifies

Vidalia High School football player Joshua Pace attempts to catch a pass during practice at Vidalia High School Tuesday. (Sam Gause | The Natchez Democrat)
Vidalia High School football player Joshua Pace attempts to catch a pass during practice at Vidalia High School Tuesday. (Sam Gause | The Natchez Democrat)

VIDALIA — If casual observers would have arrived an hour late to Vidalia’s first practice with shoulder pads and helmets, they would have thought they traveled by way of time machine.

At the helm was former head coach and 2014 defensive coordinator Dee Faircloth, shouting instruction to his young Viking players, filling in for head coach Jeff Hancock.

“(Faircloth) makes it a lot of fun,” said Nathan Knapp, who practiced with the first-team defense at linebacker. and is one of three Vidalia players to max over 300 pounds on bench press. “The whole time he’s cracking jokes.”

It was Faircloth’s show to run Tuesday because Hancock had other obligations to attend to. After giving a team meeting and watching his players practice for 45 minutes, Hancock had to leave early and travel to Pineville for a mandatory meeting with other coaches regarding rule changes. Hancock would have rather been coaching alongside Faircloth, but at least, Hancock knew he was leaving his team in good hands.

“I’ve got a legend, so it’s not bad,” Hancock said. “He’s seen and done it all. The fact that he can handle the defense takes a load off of me. I can focus on offense, and the extra time has helped. I get bored sometimes when we go over defense. I walk around and point out a few things, but that’s his show.”

Time is running thin on Hancock to get his team prepared for the 2014 season. What once felt like a slow motion countdown is now an accelerated clock, forcing Hancock to take every second he has to install as much of his system as possible before a scrimmage against LaSalle takes place in Dee Faircloth Viking Stadium on Aug. 21. As for who will play where in that scrimmage, Hancock has an idea, but he’s still trying to piece together his lineup before an Aug. 30 jamboree encounter against Ferriday.

“The scrimmage is probably going to dictate the depth chart on an offensive standpoint,” Hancock said.

Included is a competitive quarterback duel that may force Hancock to embrace a two-quarterback system. He’s done it before as an offensive coordinator at Adrian College in Michigan.

“Neither guy separated themself at Adrian,” Hancock said. “We did it for two years, and we were 8-2 and 7-3, so I would say we were successful. I’d like to name a starter, but I can’t at this point.”

Hancock’s roster number is growing. With 62 players and counting, more and more Vidalia High School students want to come out and play football, but before letting anyone on the team, Hancock leaves the decision up to his seniors.

“They have let almost everybody on with stipulations,” Hancock said. “They have to run a mile a day to make up for the days they missed in the summer. I’m proud of (the seniors) for coming up with that. I’ve been most impressed with their leadership.”