SAN ANTONIO - In his nearly 20 years as head coach of the Lanier High School football team, Don Gatian has seen his fair share of highs and lows.
The latest high moment of the coach’s career came Friday when the Voks beat reigning back-to-back district champions Sam Houston in a thrilling game at SAISD Sports Complex.
Friday night’s win over Sam Houston was the fourth in a row for Lanier this season. They are currently in first place in District 28-5A and the only undefeated team in district headed into another big game this week against the Edison Golden Bears.
It’s been quite a turnaround for the Voks, who won only three games combined the past two seasons.
They began this season with two losses, but it was one of those low moments early in the year that led to this four-game win streak.
“It happened the second half of the Pleasanton game, our second game,” Gatian said. “The first half, we played good defense. Our offense was kind of sputtering, but in the second half, we held them down. The offense was moving the ball and scoring. We just ran out of time, so it was actually the second half of the Pleasanton game that we turned things around.”
The offense has clicked since the loss to Pleasanton behind a pair of underclassmen, junior quarterback JD Boone and sophomore running back Christian Cervantes. But the senior class deserves credit for keeping the squad together.
.@CYSA_Lanier football producing on field, bringing community together. Coach Gatian, Jesse Mann discuss season More https://t.co/FIwgDUr8rw pic.twitter.com/z1xJ80tuZY — RJ Marquez (@KSATRJ) October 12, 2016
“This year, we’ve really bonded as a team from lower classmen up to seniors,” said Jesse Mann, senior left tackle. “We’ve really done what we have to do on and off the field.”
The turnaround can also be attributed to the coaching staff. Gatian has five coaches on his staff who played for him in the past. That familiarity within the staff, combined with the production on the field, has naturally galvanized the West Side community.
“I’ll tell you what, the community, they are very proud. I saw some people at H-E-B and other places around here and they said, ‘Coach way to go. You know, we’re getting back on top where we belong.’ The people in the community are talking about it,” Gatian said.
“I’m feeling a lot of love from the community,” Mann said. “Our stands have been getting more packed and pep rallies are a lot more fun. It’s bringing the community back.”
Gatian cautioned there is a lot of football to be played, and the district standings reflect that with as many as six teams still in playoff contention.
“We’re just trying to stay focused and really just do what we have to do," Mann said. "We don’t want to get to over confident, we just have to keep doing what we’re doing right now.”
Gatian can see a change of attitude within his team. He said several of his players grew up after Friday’s win, but he wants them to continue to keep things in perspective and expect a series of more highs and lows down the stretch.
“After the game we got back and there wasn’t much celebration. It was alright, this is what we’ve accomplished. Now, here’s where we need to go to. We talked about leadership at practice and doing things the right way at practice. It was more talk Friday night than it was celebration.”
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