Homecoming: Benny Vault back at Block
In the coaching profession, relationships are key. Forming bonds with coaches from other schools is a part of the position.
In the days before coaches could send film online through paid subscription services, assistant coaches lower on the ladder would have to wake up early on Saturday mornings to drop off copies of film to the following week’s opponent. Bonds would be made. Friendships would be formed.
In 2010, Coach Benny Vault formed a special bond with a man across the field from them in their second round playoff game: Ferrante Dominique, or, “Doc”, as Vault calls him.
“I would always tell my players that, if that bus gets here, if they get off that bus, if they get off that bus and grab their equipment…they think that they have a chance. And because they think that, that should piss you off as a player.”
Vault recalls this time fondly. The Bears were perennial contenders in Class 1A year in and year out. They were one of, if not the, most respected programs in Central Louisiana at the time.
“I remember getting off the bus with my guys, and we could see that (Block) was ready to go. I have to get my guys pumped, get them excited. Pregame was a lot of different emotions,” said Dominique.
The two coaches had discussed this during the week that whoever were to win their game would probably go on to win the State Championship that year. They were both aware of what was on the line.
White Castle would go on to win the game 36-19, en route to winning the State Championship. The two coaches kept in touch throughout the post-season, with Vault calling Dominique weekly to offer encouragement for that week’s game
“He would call every week, just to offer some positive words. We became fast friends after that game…we knew one day we wanted to work with each other.”
4 years later, the opportunity would arise.
Dominique landed at Peabody High School as an assistant principal and because of the responsibilities involved would not be able to be the head coach of the football team. Immediately, Doc had a man in mind.
“I called Vault up and asked if he was interested. He said he’d do it on one condition: if I’d be his assistant coach. So I said, let’s get through the application process and if they choose you, I’ll work on your staff.”
Vault landed the job, and Dominique kept his word. The two worked side by side until Vault was let go by the school this past offseason.
During Vault’s tenure, his wife passed away after a battle with cancer. Since then, football just hasn’t quite felt the same for Vault.
“She was always there, every game. She had this unique voice too, among all the yelling and band, I could always hear it. I could always hear her. The first season after she passed, there were times where I felt I still could.”
After his stint at Peabody, Vault believed his time coaching was behind him.
“I quit watching film. I had football helmets I had around my house, I moved them out of sight. I was moving on from that chapter of my life.”
Vault was preparing to move on from teaching entirely. He submitted retirement paper work this summer and had plans to open up a small business. That is, until an early morning phone call from an old friend would help draw him back in to a job that was all too familiar.
“My retirement paper work was set to process that very day. I was restless that night,” remembers Vault. “Then, my phone rings. I see it’s Doc, and I answer it immediately.”
“Must have been around 2:30, maybe 3:00 AM, something of that nature. And Coach Vault, he answered it on the first ring,” said Dominique.
Vault answered quickly, but what Dominique would say would keep him in silence.
“I had been praying, and God revealed some things to me. He revealed to me that he needs you, Benny. He needs you at Block High School.”
Vault was shocked.
“I said ‘Are you sure, Doc?’ Because really, I was moving past coaching.”
Doc was sure.
“Benny, God keeps telling me he needs you in Jonesville. That those kids, the people in that community, they need you there.”
What happened next, Vault can’t really explain.
“He began to pray with me, pray about things that I know he didn’t know about. That’s when I realized that what he was saying, he meant something.”
Doc asked him what his late wife, LaDonna would want him to do. The answer was easy.
“She bled Columbia Blue and Red. She was a Block Bear through and through. She would want me to do it.”
So he said he’d think about it.
Less than two weeks later, Vault would be named the Head Coach.
This time around, the program he had built to state relevancy was now a mere shell of its former self. His first day of fall camp, eleven players showed up. Locker room conditions hadn’t changed. Vault even claims that cobwebs that were in his office when he left were in the same spot when he returned.
“Nothing has improved. Things have only gotten worse.”
This time around though, Vault’s focus just isn’t on the game: it’s on the kids, and the community.
“As much as I want us to be good at football, it’s crucial these kids learn how to be good at life. You can’t just show up to your job occasionally and expect to not be fired. There are things more important than football.”
Within two weeks, he had close to 25 kids. Vault believes those numbers will grow even higher this offseason.
For Doc, he’s happy to see his old friend back where he’s supposed to be.
“Those kids need him. This community need something to rally around. The people of Jonesville, just watch. They will embrace him just the way they did last time.”
For Dominique, he’s moving on to other things, running for a school board seat in Iberville Parish. He may be leaving the profession, but he knows Vault’s time isn’t quite over.
“He has a lot left in the tank. He has a lot of lives left to touch.”
The Block Bears have a long road ahead of them before returning to the stature of Vault’s last go around with the team. But this time around,
Benny Vault’s homecoming is about more than the game he loveS so dear.
“I wanna see this community thrive.”