By Ben Ray, For the Mirror
Decatur High School football lost to Kentridge on Sept. 16 at Federal Way Memorial Field with a 47-14 score. After Decatur got out to an early 7-0 lead, the Chargers scored 47 unanswered points en route to their victory.
Decatur started the season 2-0 — a feat that had only been accomplished four times since that 2004 season.
Head Coach Matt Vaeena is currently in his fifth season with the Gators, and his focus is on “keeping the same message with the kids. … I just really want them to stay locked in, and not give in to the media hype.”
Coach Vaeena is upfront with the reality of the past of Decatur football. In 2004, the Gators finished 2-8 and would not win a game after week two. Five years later in 2009, the team finished 3-7. After winning the first two, the only other win would come in the final week of the season against Thomas Jefferson High School. The 2-0 mark wouldn’t happen again until 2017, and that season would end with a 4-6 record, book-ended with two-game win streaks. The fourth occurrence of a 2-0 start was the 2019 season.
“Not being from here, I learned a lot of the culture from older classes, and one of the things that has been missing is a connection between what has been going on in the stands and what the play on the field has been. It felt like what was happening in the stands has been completely independent from what’s on the field,” Vaeena said.
With the recent success, Vaeena is excited for the fans of the Gators.
“Now I am finally glad that we are meeting the standard because what was going on in the stands was the standard, but the play on the field wasn’t, so now being able to rise up to that standard has been a really good feeling,” he said.
The future outlook is bright for the Gators, especially with the young core that is developing for Decatur.
“We have a pretty good group of young guys, three starting freshmen on defense,” Vaeena said.
Post-COVID, the spring of 2021 was the first time that many of these young players could work together in the offseason.
“They had an offseason for the first time in two years, that really helped,” Vaeena said. “We had a core group of guys really lead that whole thing themselves.”
That time spent together has really helped the team grow closer with help from their coaches as well.
“We want to instill a team and family message. The bond that you have as a group that kind of carries the team,” Vaeena said.
Even though the Decatur Gators fell to Kentridge last Friday, the outlook for Decatur is more toward the future. Vaeena likes where his team is at, but they still have a long way to go, and “in terms of the big vision and big goals, we are about halfway to a quarter way there.”