Town of Vinton buzzing over Lions' unbeaten start

By By Rhett Manuel / American Press

Vinton head coach Tarius Davis keeps one buzz word handy in his vocabulary — effort.

Make no mistake, the effort has been there for the Lions this season. The school is in a position it hasn’t been in 15 years

— sitting at 5-0 for the first time since it went unbeaten in 1998.

That start, spearheaded by a

high-powered offense and opportunistic defense, has the town of Vinton

buzzing heading into tonight’s

District 4-2A opener against Welsh.

It’s something of a redemption tale for Vinton. Davis — in his third year as head coach — said he believed the program had

turned the corner the previous two seasons. However after starting 2-0, Vinton stumbled to 3-7 records.

Having surpassed last year’s wins total, Vinton went into last week’s high-profile battle with then-No. 9 Pickering.

Facing a ranked team led by a running back with gaudy numbers, the Lions made a statement that they were here to stay with

a 34-10 win.

“It was a big game,” Davis said. “I think (Pickering running back Daveon) Banks deserved the recognition he got. He was putting

up really good numbers. All week I talked about it. Part of the game plan was playing well against him.

“I guess it gave us more incentive and motivation to play. But I think when you’re 4-0, and you’re playing those types of

games, that’s the ones you want to play in.”

All year it’s been a balanced offense that has caught opposing teams’ attention. But, a turnover-creating defense has been

the cog turning Vinton’s perfect start.

That defense has generated 18 turnovers and three defensive touchdowns, led by free safety Anfernee Dixon’s seven interceptions.

“I get a lot of questions about our offense and the guys who can make plays for us,” Davis said. “I just think defensively

what we’ve stressed as a whole is playing with great effort. We want to be fundamentally sound, line up correctly and play

with great effort. I think that has led to us being a very opportunistic defense.

“I think that has a lot to do with our guys up front being persistent and creating some stuff for our guys on the back end.”

However, the offense has been nothing to sneeze at. Players like Dixon, fellow wide receiver James McMillon and running back

Keyshawn Bias will give the Welsh defense plenty to plan for.

But it’s been an unsung hero, offensive lineman Blake Trahan, who has helped mesh an inexperienced line into a strength for

the Lions.

“Blake’s our only returning starter from last year,” Davis said. “We lost everybody else. That was our biggest concern coming

into the year. We knew we had Blake and we knew he was good. But who were we going to put around him?

“We took kids with no experience and put them around Blake. He’s really stepped up and been a stabilizing force for those

guys up front.”

Trahan and the Lions’ O-line will face a Greyhounds’ defense that has been heavily leaned on all season.

“Defense has been where our experience ended up being due to injuries,” Welsh head coach John Richardson said. “They’ve really

just played tough. It’s all 11 making an impact.”

However, Welsh is expecting some returns tonight.

“The second-team quarterback (Hayden Freeland) is coming back this week,” Richardson said. “One of the running backs may see

some limited time tomorrow.”

No matter the opponent, Vinton is ready to return the program to its former glory.

“I took this job going off of what I knew of the past about Vinton and my past experience,” Davis said. “I know this has been

a successful program before. I knew we could be successful again, and I think they were kind of waiting on that.

“We’re excited about the way we were

able to go through our nondistrict schedule. We’re 0-0 and in the next

two weeks we’ve

got the two teams that have been amongst the favorites for the

last several years standing right in front of us. Like I told

them, this is where you want to be.”