(Rick Hickman / Special to the American Press)
Bret Fuselier brought Kinder High its first state championship since 1979.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 26, 2013 11:29 AMFirst time was the charm for Kinder head coach Bret Fuselier.
In his first season as the Yellow Jackets’ man in charge, Fuselier guided Kinder to the Class 2A state championship and earned the 2013 Southwest Louisiana Coach of the Year award to go along with his Class 2A Coach of Year award.
The Yellow Jackets went 15-1 en route to their first state championship since 1979 and Southwest Louisiana’s first since 1999.
“I did step into a good situation,” Fuselier said. “Coach (Jeff) Wainwright was here before me and had things going in a good direction. Most of the coaches have been here for a long time and they stayed with us. That helped out and gave us some stability when we were going through a time of change, so that definitely helped out having the assistants I have. That played a major factor in having early success. The kids bought in to what we were doing.”
Fuselier, who spent three years as a head coach at Elton and five years as a defensive coordinator at Iota before taking the Kinder job, said the assistant coaches made first-year success possible for the Yellow Jackets.
“Of course, he’s a really reasonable person and he wanted to know how things had been done in the past,” said assistant coach Skip Pickle. “He didn’t want to change a whole lot because of the success the program had before. His leadership and guidance was tremendous for our kids. He had a good attitude and our kids responded so well to his attitude and they felt relaxed and comfortable. They got to know him and put it out on the line for him.”
Even though Fuselier was careful to keep the successful aspects of Kinder working, he also made adjustments where needed. One of those moves was switching Jordan Vickers from left guard, where he played last season, to fullback this season. Vickers went on to key the Yellow Jackets’ state championship victory and earn the most valuable player award.
“He has a lot of open-mindedness and when our kids had some special qualities about them, he was able to pull that out,” Pickle said. “Some kids we never thought would even touch the field before the year started ended up being major contributors to our success. Coach Fuselier was able to see that in our kids.”
Fellow District 4-2A coach Chad Lavergne, of Lake Arthur, has been coaching against Fuselier throughout his career.
“Their program never missed a beat, which said a lot. His team really overcame any adversity that was thrown at them. In the semifinal game, in the Superdome and even in our game, they were turning the ball over, but they just stepped it up and it didn’t affect that team at all. They carried themselves expecting to win. That’s a compliment to his kids, but that’s also straight from the top.”
Fuselier said he prides himself on those games and the way his team approached them.
“You can go back to the last couple games we played and we definitely looked like the team that was outmanned if you wanted to go off the eye test,” he said. “If you look at the beginning of the season before any ball was snapped, Many and Winnfield were the two teams to beat in 2A from the time that the split happened. We played them the last two weeks of the season. It wasn’t like we dodged one and got by the other. We looked both of them in the eye and went toe to toe with both of them and in both games we were down late in the game and our kids found a way to win both of those games. To do that against those two teams, that was special.
“As time passes, I think we’ll look back and see that was something we did that most people didn’t think we’d be able to do.”
The last Kinder coach to win the Southwest Louisiana Coach of the Year award was also the last Yellow Jackets coach to win a state championship, Johnny Buck, in 1979. Coach Buck won the award three times and is remembered as a legend and standard-bearer for Kinder.
“It’s an honor whenever you get mentioned in the same breath as that man,” Fuselier said. “He had so much success and he put Kinder’s name out there as being a football school and a football town. He was a good man for the town, so to be mentioned in the same breath is an honor.”
The future looks bright for Fuselier and Kinder, as he is a young coach with an experienced staff and a team with a history of winning.
“It’s a different world out there than it used to be,” Pickle said. “He’s adjusted to that really well and the kids seem to relate to him. He’s a mix between the old school and new school and the kids relate to that really well. We’re a small community and we kind of have to raise each other’s kids because we all know each other. He’s been a part of that as well since he moved into our school.”