Dresden duo gets father-son approval
Posted: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 12:00 pm
By RANDY CAVIN
It did not take much convincing for the University of the Cumberlands head coach John Bland to want to sign Dresden’s Gatlin Hatchel and Eric VanDyke to football scholarships after he talked to his father, Dan Bland, the head coach at Humboldt.
“I have a hidden weapon here in West Tennessee, and that is my dad,” Bland said. “I trust all of the coaches to say there is good talent here, there is good talent there. Most all coaches will sell their players. But when an opposing coach says these kids are not only talented, but they are winners. I trust my dad’s judgment and he had an awful lot of good things to say about both of these kids.”
So at 8 a.m. Thursday in the Dresden High School library, Hatchel and VanDyke signed their letters of intent to get their college education at the University of the Cumberlands and play football for the Patriots.
Bland got a chance to see both players first hand in the championship game and was impressed with their competitive spirit and play.
“I got to see them in the state championship, and Gatlin of course thought he was just a winner and kept making first downs right there at the end,” Bland said. “He made plays on both sides of the ball. Eric, for one, is a tough player. They both proved to be leaders of the team.”
Hatchel and VanDyke helped to lead the Lions to a 12-3 record in 2011 and the Lions’ first appearance to the Class 2A State Championship game in school history.
Hatchel played his first year at quarterback in the 2011 season and finished 125-for-184 in passing with 1,693 yards, 17 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also ran the ball 244 times for 1,412 yards and 19 touchdowns.
VanDyke had 125 total tackles with 12 for a loss, two interceptions and one sack. In the state title game, he had eight tackles and one interception.
Dresden’s new head coach, Keith Hodge, says the Williamsburg, Ky., school will be getting two exceptional players who will help the football program and make the better.
“Coach Bland and the University of the Cumberlands are not only getting two good football players but, more importantly, players that are going to push and excel in making the football program better,” Hodge said.
Hatchel showed throughout the 2011 season that he was capable of handling the offense and improved his play from one game to next.
“Gatlin’s success at quarterback this past season is a direct reflection of his character and willingness to achieve” Hodge said. “What people didn’t see is the work Gatlin put in off the field. He wanted to learn the mental part of playing quarterback just as much as the physical part, so we worked really hard at that every day.”
“It was amazing how much the game slowed down for Gatlin as the season went along. I would be surprised if he is not competing for a spot by the time he is a sophomore. He isn’t the type player you can keep off the field.”
VanDyke had a knack for being in the right place at the right time to make a big play on defense last season and Hodge believes that ability will transform into the next level.
“Eric has a tenacity the coaches here have never seen,” Hodge said. “He wanted to make the big plays and proved why. Fundamentals are huge at the next level because the playing field levels out, so if he continues to improve in that area the big plays will happen when he is on the field.”
VanDyke is looking forward to that next challenge and playing football for the Patriots.
“It has been a goal of mine to play for a college somewhere, and they turn out really good football,” VanDyke said. “After the Humboldt game, coach Bland said his dad told him to come get me, so he came to the school and talked to both of us. He felt pretty confident in my ability.
“I went there and visited the school. I like some of the people I met and stayed there overnight. I liked the environment up there. It is a good school and football program.”
Hatchel said he is looking forward to playing for Bland and he wants to use what he learned in his senior year at Dresden and improve upon it at the next level.
“I know it is going to be a lot more physical,” Hatchel said. “This was my first year at quarterback and I feel that I did pretty good. Hopefully I will be able to go off of that and be able to learn more at the position and become more of a dual threat quarterback up there.”
Dresden’s opponents this season will be breathing a sigh of relief when they look across the field and not see Hatchel and VanDyke. The Patriots opponents will be in for a surprise when these two college freshmen take to the field in 2012 if they continue their intense style of play. Published in The WCP 4.17.12