When the news broke on June 12 that Vincent DeRouen had been released as Northside’s head football coach, Trev Faulk heard his name brought up as a potential replacement.
Initially, he didn’t think much of it.
After all, he was busy preparing the Vermilion Catholic Screamin’ Eagles for only his second season at the helm in Abbeville, coming a memorable 13-1 All-Acadiana Coach of the Year campaign in his rookie year as a head coach.
It’s not that the speculation was a huge surprise. Faulk had served as an assistant coach under DeRouen for three seasons and was a popular figure in the community.
It just didn’t seem like the right time for Faulk with just one season as a head coach under his belt and plenty of talent returning at VC.
Then he asked himself, “Is there ever really a right time to turn down an opportunity to coach a program like Northside’s in a league like District 5-4A?”
In Faulk’s mind anyway, the answer to that question was a resounding, “No.”
So there was the Lafayette High and LSU graduate at the Lafayette Parish School Board office on Wednesday morning being announced as Northside’s new head football coach.
In addition to Faulk, Trent Ellis was introduced as Northside’s new athletic director, as well as head boys and girls track coach.
“It’s been a lot to take in,” Faulk said. “It all happened so fast. They had contacted me, but really it all started last Thursday or Friday. We were able to work out a couple of issues to make it happen.
“I just felt like it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. I wasn’t even thinking about leaving VC. The people there were so good to me. But it’s great to be back in the SEC.”
Faulk, who will be 31 when practice starts in August, takes over a Northside program coming off a disappointing season where the Vikings had to forfeit five wins to eliminate then from playoff contention after former Viking quarterback Jasper Turner transferred back to the school.
Prior to last year’s state semifinal appearance at VC, Faulk had spent three seasons as an assistant coach — 2007, 2009, 2010 at Northside and 2008 at Carencro High.
He returns to Northside in a major school-wide transition phase after 25 other teachers were pushed out along with DeRouen. While the last two weeks have been chaotic for the Vikings, Wednesday’s announcement went a long way in restoring hope for some.
“When I caught wind of the news today, it was like a huge burden lifted off of my shoulders,” senior strong safety Orlando Calhoun said. “It was an amazing feeling. At first (after the firings), it was upsetting. We felt like they would bring in a coach that hadn’t been around.”
Both Calhoun and senior cornerback Katrelle Fuselier said they looked forward to the discipline they expect Faulk to bring to the program.
“It’s definitely a blessing that they brought in a head coach who has been there,” Fuselier said. “When they broke the news to us about coach DeRouen being fired (on answering machine), we were all upset about the situation.
“With coach Faulk, though, we know he’s a great coach and he knows the Northside system. That’s going to make the transition a lot easier.”
Both players, though, understood that Faulk’s return doesn’t mean more of the same in many ways under new principal Melinda Voorhies.
“All the changes at Northside are going to be good,” Fuselier said. “They’re trying to make our school better. They just want us to follow the rules that were already there. They just want us to follow the rules that were there, but just weren’t being applied.”
Fuselier said he’s expecting more of a “cover two” defensive scheme with Faulk as the head coach.
Faulk’s staff will include current Viking assistants Cordell Bailey, Jack Phillips, John Simmons and Contreal Charles, while former NHS star Tyson Andrus returns as the defensive coordinator and Rickey Calais comes over from VC.
“And there are still a couple of holes to fill,” Faulk said. “There will be some pretty big changes scheme-wise on both sides of the ball. We’re going to keep some of the power stuff on offense, but do more of the spread. On defense, we’re going to have more of an attacking style.”
While his new job is exciting, Faulk said he struggled with leaving VC.
“I told the kids today that I felt like I was leaving my family,” Faulk said. “That’s how close we had gotten in such a short period of time. The support there was amazing, from the kids to the administration to the parents. They do it the right way over there. It was a great experience.
“To actually go through 15 games with the jamboree doing everything a head coach does was a great learning experience for me.”
Faulk said his biggest concern is “getting everybody to buy into the system” as quickly as possible.
“If that happens, we’ll be fine,” he said. “The schedule is brutal, but there’s nothing we can do about that. But really, I love it. I love the challenge.”
Also coming in to help get everybody to buy into the new regime is Ellis as athletic director and track coach.
Ellis, who most recently has been an assistant track coach at LSU, has coached for 17 years, including stints at Christian Life (in the Michael Clayton years) and Scotlandville. Ellis grew up as the son of NFL defensive back Ken Ellis, who is in the Packers Hall of Fame, so he shifted more to track. Ellis played both football and track at Baker High, before doing one year of football and four years of track at Southern.
Ellis previously worked with new Northside High principal Voorhies at an alternative school in Baton Rouge.
“This situation at Northside is nowhere near that,” Ellis said. “You have a different type of kid here at Northside. Northside isn’t really that type of school.”
One major thing Ellis does want changed is the academic realm. For instance, while working as a track coach at LSU, he wanted to recruit Northside star sprinter Jordan Lee, but he wasn’t academically qualified.
“We’re going to work on that,” Ellis said. “I know there are talented kids here. It’s only going to get tougher. They upped the ante. Starting in 2015, you’re going to need a 2.9 and a 20. Academics is going to be our No. 1 priority.”
With that said, Ellis will be taking over two top-notch track programs.
“I’m definitely looking forward to that,” he said. “I never shy away from competition.”
Since DeRouen’s departure from Northside and the opening at Westgate High due to Brian Fine’s resignation, there’s been speculation that DeRouen would be a top candidate to replace Fine in New Iberia.
Neely Moore, approved as the new Westgate principal earlier this week, said that the search was put on hold until the principal’s position was filled. She said that applications were gathered and she was just beginning to go through them on Wednesday to seek the most qualified candidates.
Moore said there was no specific timetable, but was hoping to be able to narrow it down to the range of three or four finalists as soon as possible.
Faulk leaving Vermilion Catholic also creates an opening there. Faulk said he will be praying that offensive coordinator Roch Charpentier will be elevated to fill that position.
“I made sure I gave him a lot of responsibility last year to help prepare him for this kind of opportunity by allowing him to do things like run a practice and address the team,” Faulk said. “He did a great job with the offense last year. I think that would make for a much easier transition.”
Follow sports editor Kevin Foote on Twitter @FooteNote.