Vanden High Football Team – The Vacaville Reporter

Lined up outside the boundaries of Vanden High School, patrons decked out in black, green and gold lined the sidewalk with posters, confetti and smiles from ear to ear as they waited for the team Vanden High football pitch embarks on De Ronde Road.

“I could watch it over and over again, I love seeing them enjoying the moment and they worked so hard,” said Sandra Null, mum of junior Orion Null. “They deserve this and more.”

Vanden High School coaches Larry Hogue (left) and Sean Murphy (middle) wave to the crowd at Saturday’s parade celebrating the team’s state title. (Joel Rosenbaum/The Reporter)

With nearly two months to go in their state championship — a 14-13 victory over Thomas Aquinas — the members of the program are still struggling to let it sink in. With all the love and support he has received in the region, Vikings head coach Sean Murphy has always continued to understand what the entire program has been able to accomplish.

“I’m so proud of our student-athletes and the resilience they’ve shown over the past year and a half,” Murphy said. “We reflect on this and hope that they will build on the life lessons they have learned and the courage they have shown so that they can use them later in life and become productive citizens. Now it’s about honoring the sacrifices they’ve made throughout the year.

So in the wee hours of the weekend, fans, families and community members gathered for a parade to honor the season. The program went 13-2 overall, winning its last seven games, including a Sac-Joaquin Section crown against Merced and then a NorCal title against Windsor.

On the main stage, community members like Mayor Harry T. Price and Travis School District Superintendent Pam Conklin sat and waved at everyone in the parade. District 5 Supervisor Mitch Mashburn drove a truck with program members in the back of his truck bed. In addition to football players, members of the cheerleading team, Vandens JROTC and members of public safety were some of the many who lined the parade route to celebrate the program.

Along with the fire truck with his teammates and brothers, senior Sean Davis was so happy with all the love that Vanden and the community continued to give his teammates.

“It’s so crazy for all the people from Fairfield to come see us,” Davis said. “We really came together as a whole.”

Although celebrating the moment, what has remained prevalent is the memory of Daniel Hughes, who was a key member of Vanden’s football and basketball programs before passing away in April 2021. Watching his son Orion play with Daniel since Five-year-old Mark Null was excited to celebrate but still felt sadness with Daniel not being there, but knew he was watching from a better place.

“He should be here doing the same, we’re happy for them but it’s bittersweet at the same time,” Mark said. “He was a big loss for Vanden, but Daniel was a big loss for the community. (Sandra) was filming when Orion was in the car, and as soon as Orion and Diaz and his teammates stopped, a beam of light appeared. Little things like that have happened all year and I think it’s something that all of these kids hang on to.

Using their smartphones to document a piece of history, family and friends from the Vanden High School football team cheer them on as they march in celebration of their state title victory Saturday outside the school. (Joel Rosenbaum/The Reporter)

Among the many team members on the bus, a helmet with the number nine kept circulating, knowing how excited Hughes is for his teammates, as honoring him has been their biggest motivation throughout the season. .

“It’s still hard to understand that he’s still not here with us, but we know he’s obviously here with us in spirit,” elder Blake Waldrop said. “We always use him as motivation and just to think of him. It’s what all high school kids dream of, I’ve never seen someone who had the potential and the work ethic like Daniel Hughes. He was a leader on and off the pitch. He was in the same class as me and I looked up to him.

“I felt his presence today, but I don’t think it was just today, I think it was all our way to be honest,” elder Cameron Fisherman said. “I think he was there through thick and thin as we all trained, bad and good. He was a good player, a good student in the books, and there was no one on the pitch who wanted him more than him.

As the festivities continue as the school year progresses, the reality is that 23 members of this state championship program will be graduating in the spring, and the Vikings have pressed their restart button once again. One legacy the Class of 2022 leaves behind is an acronym Murphy calls EAT.

“We changed our message, our offensive coordinator, we took one of his words, he always talks about effort and responsibility, and then we added teamwork to it,” Murphy said. “That became our mantra, EAT. I think that senior class really bought into that and they really bought into that motto and made it a real thing.

Leaving their high school careers as champions, Davis, Fisherman and Waldrop all shared different thoughts on what led to their success on the football field they leave behind.

“Stick to the schedule, you have to trust the coaches because they’re watching over you and your best interests,” Waldrop said. “Trust your coaches, side with your teammates, never fight and always be brothers.”

“Be ready at all times and give it your all,” Fisherman said. “Be a student-athlete with this, you don’t want to be stupid, playing on the football field and getting bad grades, that’s a bad reputation for you.

“Keep your spirits up and play for your family and everyone else,” Davis said.

Members of the Vanden Vikings football program are expected to eventually receive their state championship rings, although the time and location of the ceremony are yet to be determined.

About Betty J. Snyder

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