New South Lake football coach looks to turn program into contender

By: Jason Carmel Davis | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published September 3, 2015

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — In his first year as head coach of the St. Clair Shores South Lake football team, Vernard Snowden has set a simple goal for his team to first reach and then maintain.


“Compete,” said Snowden, who joined the Cavaliers after five seasons as the offensive coordinator at Detroit Martin Luther King High School. “I saw some of the team’s games last year, and it seemed like they were lacking in effort. There were games where (South Lake) would be in the game and end up getting blown out. My main, and only, goal is for the team to compete.”


Snowden got that strong effort in the team’s 60-26 win over St. Clair Shores Lakeview in Week 1. South Lake (1-0 at press time) reached its highest point total since Week 3 in 2012.


Snowden came to South Lake from a perennial Detroit Public School League power. King’s offense averaged 34.9 points per game, amassed a 40-16 record and played in two state semifinals from 2010-14. In 2014, the team averaged 36.3 points per game on its way to an 8-2 mark.


So what brought him to South Lake?


“The opportunity to be over my own program was something I couldn’t pass up,” Snowden said. “I learned a lot over the last five seasons and felt I was ready to take the next step in my coaching career.

“I liked the vision of (South Lake Athletic Director Chris Rinehart) as it relates to the school’s sports program — ensuring the kids are students first, then athletes. It was the perfect opportunity.”


Snowden said he feels he’s brought a sense of urgency to South Lake and that he likes to utilize all of the players on the roster, not just the starters.


At King, Snowden coached the likes of former University of Michigan player Dennis Norfleet and University of Pittsburgh standout Avonta Maddux. He said he does his best to ensure that all his players are put in the best position to succeed.


Snowden said the adjustments his players have had to make since his arrival are coming along and that things get better each day, but players are not yet used to certain things he demands of them.


“Some things aren’t going to happen overnight,” Snowden said, “and I know that, but the kids are trying, and that’s what’s important.”


That effort will have to be evident on defense.


Last season, South Lake allowed nearly 35 points per game on its way to a 2-7 mark. The team finished 4-5 in 2013 and last made the state playoffs in 2012. Snowden said he wants his defense to play aggressive, physical, disciplined football.


“Those are attributes that come from inside a player,” said Snowden, who tapped senior linebacker Jalen Williams, senior defensive lineman Deontae Taylor and senior defensive back Antonio Vaughn as defensive leaders. “We preach those things every day.”


Williams, a three-year starter, said he believes Snowden has done a great job thus far.


“When he first got here, he told us all we had to do is buy into what he teaches and we’ll have a pretty good team,” Williams said. “We’ve done that so far, and we’ve had some success.


“I’m pretty sure the program is going to continue to improve because my coach is a good man, and he always puts us in the best position to succeed.”


Snowden is optimistic about the season, and the program, moving forward.


“The guys are starting to come around and buy into what my staff and I are implementing, so I think this season is set up for great things to come at South Lake,” Snowden said. “My objective is to build a program. As long as we compete in every game, we’ll be fine.”


South Lake next takes the field for a matchup against Warren Fitzgerald at 7 p.m. Sept. 11. Check www.candgnews.com following the game for a recap.

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