vann

Seven Rivers Christian quarterback Nehemiah Vann, right, sprints away from the defense during last Friday night’s game at Warrior Park in Lecanto against Trinity Christian Academy. The Warriors opened the season with a 41-6 victory, as Vann made big contributions on offense and defense.

Monty Vann thought back to a football game he attended several years ago, when his son Nehemiah made an astute observation.

“He said, ‘They’re two high safety, why aren’t they throwing in the middle of the field?’” said Monty Vann, head coach at Seven Rivers Christian. “You don’t hear many 8-year-olds saying that.”

Yes, Nehemiah Vann is the coach’s son. Some people will look down upon him, even give him grief over it. But preferential treatment? Not so much.

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“Being the coach’s son, he does try to be harder on me at times,” Nehemiah said. “A lot of guys joke around. But I take it. Anyone who hates on me, I just keep my head low and keep playing.”

“Being the coach’s kid is tough for him. He’s always had it the toughest,” Monty said. “He’s had to prove himself a bit more because he’s the coach’s kid.”

With 2 1/2 seasons of starting at quarterback already under his belt, Nehemiah doesn’t have to speak up to defend himself. The numbers do plenty

of talking.

Injuries forced him to take over under center midway through his eighth-grade year. So even as a junior, this is his fourth varsity season. In 24 career games entering Friday’s action, he has completed 307 of 520 passes (59%) for 3,995 yards. He also has thrown for

33 touchdowns against 19 interceptions, and has a QB rating of 89.2. That’s all helped him earn All-Chronicle selections each of the past two seasons.

In an area where passing attacks are almost nonexistent, those numbers particularly stand out and provide the Warriors with a significant advantage.

“It’s huge,” Monty Vann said. “He’s a quarterback that understands the offense, he understands his protection. How many high school quarterbacks really understand their protection and he gets it.”

His importance to the team was certainly on display last Friday, when he went 14 of 22 for 200 yards, threw three touchdowns, and even ran 13 times for 61 yards and one score.

For good measure he played free safety and picked off two passes. So he can actually be a two-way threat, although his father said the hope is to get Nehemiah away from defense as other players return from injuries.

“I feel extremely confident in our ability to perform to the expectations we set, which is to go undefeated,” Nehemiah said. “After the game, Coach told us to play like a No. 1 (on the depth chart) but practice like a No. 2. We’ll continue having that attitude no matter what.”

That he was even on the field at all for Week 1 wasn’t assured just a few months ago. While playing keeper for the boys soccer team, Vann suffered a broken right tibia in the final 30 seconds of the district championship game in early February.

He spent three months in a cast, completely missing spring football. There was another month in walking boot, although he still wasn’t walking. Dealing with severe muscle atrophy, he began rehabbing three months after sustaining the injury, at Performance By Achievement in Inverness.

“At first it was really tough. I had a lot of doubts whether I’d come back with the setbacks I had,” Nehemiah said. “From breaking my leg I learned to not take anything for granted. Now I’m more grateful to have the ability to play.

“… I learned that even if I’m not able to do what I want to do, I can still serve others around me. I helped (backup QB) J.T. Tipton throughout spring football. It was a blessing for me to mentor him and take him under my wing.”

That kind of leadership seems to come naturally to Nehemiah. He doesn’t just want to help his teammates on the field. He also wants them to succeed in the classroom, where he himself has a 4.3 GPA. He credits his father as well as his mother, Karen Vann.

“Both my parents push me to be the best version of myself,” Nehemiah said. “They push me to work hard to be the best I can be.”

That should continue for the next two seasons at Seven Rivers, as both QB and coach are hoping to enjoy the fruits of their labors after three years of rebuilding. It’s the next step in the journey they’ve loved taking together.

“I’m proud of him. I’m so stinking proud of him,” Monty Vann said. “I tell him I’m proud of him no matter what he does, because as a dad I see him being a leader to his teammates. I see him bring them up and I see him break some guys down at the right times.

“For me, that’s what it’s all about. I want my son being a leader, not a follower. He’s doing a really good job of that.”

Prep Zone

Get updates and player profiles ahead of Friday's high school games, plus a recap Saturday with stories, photos, video Frequency: Seasonal Twice a week

Contact Chronicle sports reporter Chris Bernhardt at 352-563-5660, chris.bernhardt@chronicleonline.com or on twitter @cpbernhardtjr.

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