Vardaman Football Begins New Era

The Vardaman Rams will have a very different look this season with new helmets and a new coach. Justin Hollis, who served as an assistant at Amory the past four years,
takes over the Ram football program with a young team, emphasizing
conditioning and all-out effort.


By JOEL McNEECE
The Vardaman Rams will have a very different look this season with new helmets and a new coach.
Justin Hollis, who served as an assistant at Amory the past four years, takes over the Ram football program with a young team, emphasizing conditioning and all-out effort.
“One thing that we preach and believe in is to be in better shape than every team we play,” Hollis said. “Every player, every play – that’s our motto. We want everybody going hard every down. We’re not the kind of team that can take 10 minutes off in a game. We’ve got to play for 48 minutes.”
Hollis said he’s pleased with the progress of the team through practice as they incorporate a new offense.
“We’re where I thought we would be execution wise,” Hollis said. “We’ve got to be able to run the football. We need a balanced offense for success.”
Pulling the trigger in the new offense will be senior quarterback Gene Ruth. Ruth split time at QB with Damon Johnson last year.
“Gene is one of our team leaders,” Hollis said. “He does a great job of executing our offense, and I feel like we have a lot of weapons where we can be successful.”
Some of those weapons include running-back Fred Bu-chanan, wide receiver Xavier Humphries who made 53 receptions for 906 yards and nine touchdowns last year, and all-around athlete Damon Johnson, who accounted for 22 touchdowns last year, who will be moved around a lot to help get his hands on the ball.
“We’ve got to be able to run the ball,” Ruth said. “That will be key for us.”
Seniors Jordan Inman and Wes Parker will lead the offensive line, which returns four starters.
The strength of the team is on the defensive side of the ball, Hollis said.
Senior Kevin Barnette, who recorded more than 100 tackles and was an all state selection last year, and junior Jeremy Penson, 6’3” and 285 pounds, anchor a strong defensive front.
“We have a lot of senior leadership on defense,” Barnette said. “It’s important that we play as a team, play aggressive, and swarm to the football.”
“We haven’t changed much on defense from past years,” Hollis said. “Coach Spann has done a great job with the defense. I’m more accustomed to the traditional 4-3, but if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
The Rams are in a challenging region with the preseason number one ranked team in Class 1A – East Webster.
Calhoun City is also considered a top 10 team in 1A heading into the season.
“East Webster is loaded and clearly the favorite in our region,” Hollis said. “Calhoun City is going to be really tough also.
“But if we play our best, I would put us up against anybody. We certainly noticed the polls and that nobody is really giving us any attention, but that’s alright. We like to go into the season with a little chip on our shoulder.”
The Rams are coming off an 8-4 season where they advanced to the playoffs.
“We expect to have a good year,” Jeremy Penson said. “If we keep are heads on straight, no reason why we can’t go a long way.”

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