Vance enjoying the 'pageantry' of State Championship week


CLINTON – Saturday was a “blur” for Hattiesburg head coach Tony Vance. He left the Hattiesburg High School Football Fieldhouse at 3:30 a.m. following Friday night’s win over Laurel, and he finally got in bed for a few hours of sleep at 4:30 a.m.

He spent the majority of Saturday with friends and family, while mixing in film watching and a nap, and he was back at the Fieldhouse by 10 a.m. Sunday morning. He did leave at a reasonable hour, though, closing up shop at 9:30 p.m.

On Monday, Vance joined the 11 other coaches at the MHSAA Football Championships press conference in Clinton.

“It’s been nonstop,” he said.

It’s been so nonstop for Vance and his team, he didn’t have a set schedule for the rest of the week when asked Monday. He said he would have a schedule on Tuesday.

“It’s the pageantry that goes with it,” Vance said of Monday’s press conference. “I told my coaches Friday, things are about to go fast. We’ll have the press conference Monday and try to get to practice, there’s going to be media everywhere, a lot of people coming in, so it’ll be a week that goes by extremely fast. For me, I know how it goes and I’m fortunate to be in that position.”

As far as after the game last Friday, Vance said his phone died within an hour after the game with many calls, texts and message flooding his phone. He wouldn’t have it any other way either.

“It’s just been a tremendous amount of support and congratulations from people all over the state and out of the state,” he said. “I probably received, and some of them I missed and haven’t gotten an opportunity to back to them, but probably over 100 phone calls and 200 messages.”

When the final seconds ticked off the clock, Vance wanted to turn around to show the crowd his gratitude for their support. His signaled No. 1 with his two index fingers, gave a fist pump toward the crowd then celebrated with his players and the fans on the field.

“We worked hard to get to this point,” Vance said. “At that moment, we did it. It wasn’t me, it wasn’t just our team, wasn’t just our school, it wasn’t just our district, it was the whole city. It felt like the whole city was behind us and supporting us. We did it as a city, it felt like. I just wanted to turn around and acknowledge them and thank them for the support.”

The feeling he had after clinching a spot in the 5A State Championship was both familiar and new. It was the fifth time as a coach to be in North/South Championship game, after coaching in four North State Championships at Charleston. He was an assistant coach for the 2004 and 2005 Charleston teams, then head coach in 2011 and 2012.

His team won the game in 2005, 2011 and 2012, and he won the state championship in 2011.

“This time around, I kind of prepped my coaches since it was a lot of their first time being in that game and that atmosphere,” Vance said. “I felt like we did a pretty good job of prepping our coaches and prepping our team, as far as the crowd and all of that. It wasn’t nearly as many people in the north half games in Charleston as there was Friday night.”

At the press conference on Monday when available tickets for each school was brought up, Hattiesburg was the lone school mentioned about selling 5,300 tickets to the 5A South State Championship game. While MHSAA’s Chief Financial Officer Joyce Franklin didn’t reveal how many tickets Hattiesburg received to be sold prior to Saturday’s game, she said her and Hattiesburg Athletics Director Dr. Cheyenne Trussell compromised on an “adequate” amount.