Rushing king Ciatrick Fason takes on new challenge as Fletcher High School football coach

Juston Lewis
Florida Times-Union
Fletcher head coach, Ciatrick Fason, looks on as players run sprints to close practice out.

The king of the beach has returned, and he brought friends, too. 

When Ciatrick Fason was announced as Fletcher’s new head football coach, fans took to social media to show their support of the legendary running back. 

One of Duval’s all-time great players, the Fletcher alum went on to play for the University of Florida in the early 2000s and was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings in 2005.

Still revered in Northeast Florida for his inhuman feats on a football field, Fason rushed for 7,479 yards and 98 touchdowns in his career, securing All-American honors for his efforts.

Now, he’s back at his alma mater with the goal of elevating the culture. 

“I just want everybody to know that it’s a work in progress but we’re going to try to bring some excitement to the beach,” he said on returning to Fletcher. “Hopefully bring a state championship but one thing we do know: We’re going to have great character kids. That’s always the ultimate goal.”

Back in season:Northeast Florida teams welcome return to 2021 high school football practice

Returning to play:Baker's Sports High School Media Day draws football stars from across Northeast Florida

A part of working toward that goal is bringing in a staff that’s all in. Fason did that by hiring Fletcher grads to his coaching staff.

Evan Orth, who was 23-5 as a starting quarterback for the Senators, accepted the offensive coordinator job. He played college football at South Alabama, where he threw for 1,800 yards and 11 touchdowns his senior campaign.

The defensive coordinator is John Thompson, who was named the Jacksonville area’s defensive player of the year by the Times-Union in 1995 and went on to play for Clemson. Thompson overcame multiple injuries and starred in roles in all phases of the game for the Tigers.

They’re not only Fletcher alums, but they have college experience and know what it takes to succeed at the next level. 

That’ll go a long way in helping players who have dreams of signing with collegiate programs and continuing their athletic and academic careers. 

“The one thing I did with the program is surround the team with guys that went to college,” Fason said of bringing in coaches with college experience. “I’m just bringing in a lot of guys that played college ball. Just surrounding our players with college guys so we can bring that college atmosphere. Those guys know what it takes, so hopefully, we can teach our kids what it takes.”

The Senators have consecutive seasons without a losing record dating back to 2006. They’re a playoff regular and produce some of the top talent in Duval County.

Ciatrick Fason looks on as quarterback Keely Watson drops back for a pass during Monday's practice.

But Fason wants to take the next step and be recognized as a top program throughout the state. He’s made that goal very clear and isn’t shy about letting it be known.

“We’ve always been a program consistently in the state playoffs since 1998,” he said. “Just being in the playoffs shouldn’t be a focal point, because we’re a school that’s known to get to the playoffs. Now the expectation is let’s bring a state championship. Let’s try to compete year-in and year-out for a state championship. Not just be talked about as a playoff team or playoff contender.

“Every offseason when high school football is coming up and you’re talking about teams and powerhouses, we want people to say, ‘We know Fletcher is going to be good this year.’ Get in that area of Lakeland High, St. Thomas Aquinas, Tampa Plant. Get in those conversations of Trinity Christian and University Christian. That’s my ultimate goal. I think if you get the players to buy in, it could happen.”

With Florida State commit Aaron Hester, quarterback Keely Watson, two-way player Aiden Heilmann and more returning, the Senators have a roster with the talent to get it done.

Fletcher running back Ciatrick Fason (4) tries to pull away from Sandalwood defensive back Ronnie Powell (5) in the first quarter of a September 1998 high school football game.

But Fason and company are taking an unconventional route to get their goal accomplished.

“The thing I wanted to bring is not always being strict and make them be robots,” Fason said on his early interactions with the team. “I wanted to come in and let them have fun, run, and when it’s time to teach and show them what to do, we teach them where they messed up. They’ve been liking that. We’re not so much cursing them out and being hard on them. When you break them down, you just build them back up. The thing we like, we have guys out here crying and being emotional because they aren’t doing everything right. That means they love the game. That’s been a plus.”

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Fletcher’s quest to be in rank with the aforementioned programs won’t be a quick or easy task. With Fason at the helm, the Senators seem to be headed in a good direction.