Continuing Legacy of V Side
Vashon football team, Head Coach Will Franklin continues to make an impact in the PHL
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - When you walk into the halls of a legendary African American high school, which first was built on the east of Grand Avenue and now resides on Cass Avenue, you can feel the history and the legacy of Vashon.
Not only does the school have a rich history and education system, its athletic programs, including football, have made their mark as well. There have been many well-known athletes from this high school, including former NBA player Anthony Bonner and former NFL player Butler By’note. Will Franklin also falls in line with those former athletes that gave back to their homes through coaching.
When Franklin walked through the doors of Vashon High School, he made his mark on the field. He later became a star receiver at the University of Missouri, and an NFL receiver in 2008, playing for the Kansas City Chiefs. With the accolades stacked high, he couldn’t forget about the place he called home.
“Since the day I came here, my life changed in so many different ways,” Franklin said. “I wouldn’t be here before you if I didn’t make that decision to come to Vashon High School and experience the things I had to experience.”
In 2019, the Vashon alum decided to come back home to coach the game he fell in love with. He was not only a coach but more so of a mentor to the players on the team.
“I can go to him at any time. He’s part of my family,” sophomore running back Di’erre Hill Jr. said.
Franklin preached hard about being a positive character on and off the field. He treated all of his players like they were his own children.
“For me, it’s all about the intimacy. And I’m able to give that with the guys and interact with them and they can actually touch someone that done something that they’re striving for,” explained Franklin.
“The biggest impact that he is in the actual kid’s life on a day-to-day.” Athletic Director John Albert said. “Just the little things that he does with his team and his players as far as building the culture and doing stuff outside of football.”
During his first year as a head coach in 2019, the Wolverines went 1-9. During the 2020 spring season, the Vashon football team began to creep up from the ashes and later rose to become one of the top teams to compete with in St. Louis. The team went from winning one game to going 9-2, and winning the Public High League Conference and the Class 4 District 2 Championship during the 2021-22 season.
“It almost gave me confirmation that you were doing it right,” Franklin said.
During the 2022-23 season, they had a pretty tough schedule, with three of the top schools in the city lined up in the beginning. One of those teams was coached by his former teammate and former NFL wide receiver Jeremy Maclin.
The Wolverines fought hard throughout the whole season. From the first game, they showed that they can hang with any team in the city.
They defeated the Kirkwood Pioneers, 28-27 in one of the biggest games in the city.
“The kids played in one of the most exciting games to start off the season.”
The Wolverines struggled the next two games against powerhouse SLUH and the 2022 state champions, Cardinal Ritter.
“Teams like that that had went deep into playoffs and know what it takes they understand stage games.” Franklin said. “To have programs like a Cardinal Ritter or St. Mary’s, you have to go through battles, you have to go through wars. And we are just now getting into battles and wars which is why the schedule is rigorous as it is first weeks of the season so that we can find out who we are.”
The Wolverines did just that. The team went on a seven-game win streak led by Hill, and seniors Zach Smith, TaDarion Owens, Malious Cain, and Derrick Ward.
“From there, I think the team seen that it takes consistency of attending practice, it takes dedication on the commitment you need to compete every day. so that Saturdays can be rewarding the way you wanted it to be. And from there the leadership start picking up and the seniors doing a hell of a job,” Franklin said.
The team was off to a great start in the playoffs, knocking out Confluence Prep, 70-0, and defeating Parkway North 32-25, in which Hill scored four total touchdowns. They made it to the District Championship for the second year in a row, but they came up short in their matchup against Parkway Central.
“The kids learned how to fight,” Franklin said. “Leadership standpoint man, from controlling the guys in the building to making sure we get out on the practice field, we competed and practiced the way we needed to practice. Those were the things that were just the super highs I’ve seen.”
As Franklin continues to play a big role in the players’ lives, he also contributes a lot to the high school, including helping discuss the establishment of the new field.
“The interesting thing about the football field is that it was actually something that was supposed to be apart of Phase 2 a long long time ago when the school was built actually,” Albert said. “And it just came back on the desk mid way through last school year or whatever.”
“We just passed Proposition S not too long ago, two weeks ago, that allowed us the money that we needed with the outside sourcing besides St. Louis Public Schools that’s going to have a field out here at Vashon High School for the first time in school history,” Franklin said.
Along with the new field, Vashon expects to have its first-ever homecoming next year. Franklin told News 4 that the school will send out a letter to all alumni to welcome them back and give them something that they’ve truly paved the way for.
“It’s really important to me, people don’t understand, being a Vashonite someone that went here and you’ve never had a place to call your home to be honest, especially when it comes to football,” Albert said. “To be able to do that, I think it’s more of an attraction for inner city kids, for our kids for wanting to come to Vashon. to look at the fabulous facilities that we have especially with basketball.”
“You can get those guys back, and I know they probably going to cry just well as I’d cry just to even say, ‘hey man we got a home field.’” Franklin said. “Like we do, we’re not going to Gateway Tech or, for a lot of older people, O’Fallon Tech and all these different names of some of the schools that we have played in that was considered our home field but never really our home field.”
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