Rams endure growing pains

Football stockBy Brandon Speck

Daily Journal

Vardaman is 0-6 and on the verge of ending a 22-year playoff run. But first-year coach Larry Gann is a veteran and no stranger to success. The Rams plan to soon make headlines for winning streaks, not losing streaks.

Gann, who took the job in the spring, barely had enough time to load the bus for the first game. There are no excuses but plenty of reasons a rebuilding team remains winless.

“Putting in a whole new system, as far as terminology and not knowing the kids, them not knowing me and my expectations,” Gann said. “But they’ve responded pretty well and our junior high program is in really good shape.”

Vardaman’s last losing season came in 1994. But the Rams still won the division.

The small, 25-man roster is young. During one game, an eighth-grader, three ninth-graders and three sophomores were on the field at one time. There are only five seniors – all without a lot of playing experiences. And new players are playing both ways.

Vardaman went 8-5 last season under Justin Hollis, who took an administrative position at Myrtle. Gann said a large part of that team’s production graduated.

“We’ve got some older guys, but our older guys are inexperienced as well,” he said. “Our quarterback started his first game (in our opener). He’s come on. It’s just been kind of growing pains.”

Sophomore Brandon Walker is learning to make plays at quarterback. Tavis Townsend – another sophomore – has several good games at running back. Freshman Brandon Washington has taken on several roles – with or without reps – including scout quarterback, free safety and tailback.

Breaks haven’t come either. The Rams lost by 11 at Thrasher and could have gotten momentum at Hamilton, but were foiled on an opportunity at the 1-yard line. Missed blocks, bad snaps and the like keep popping up.

“Let’s just say we found a way not to,” Gann said. “But they keep coming back every Monday and there’s still time to correct mistakes.”

Vardaman hosts Biggersville on Friday, a team against which it has never lost.

brandon.speck@journalinc.com