BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (WTNH)–They might be the least-heralded undefeated team in the state, but the Presidents of Harding High in Bridgeport would be the No. 2 seed in the Class L playoffs if the season ended today.
The setting may not be picture-perfect from the outside.
“For our kids in the inner city of Bridgeport, it’s the without. What makes us great is that we don’t have the best things,” said head coach Eddie Santiago.
“Come on, let’s work,” he implores his players. He’s got them working hard.
“We take Harding pride here very seriously,” said quarterback Taisun Phommachahn. “The intensity is real out here, and we work hard to get to 10-0,” said Jahzaari Mullings.
With one more win, on Thanksgiving Day, the Presidents will wrap up a perfect regular season. Years of winning were followed by years of losing in recent times, as a once-proud football program fell on hard luck.
Coaches came, coaches went, until the revolving door stopped with longtime assistant Santiago, one of the school’s own.
“I think it had to be a Harding guy. That fifteen-year span was pretty bad. I took a little from each coach, what they did wrong, and what we did right,” he said.
So far, the coaching staff has found the perfect recipe. A fun, committed atmosphere that has bred a winning attitude that goes beyond the end lines of a football field.
“If you can work harder than the next guy, you’re going to be successful,” Santiago said. “The dropout rate is getting better every eyar.”
“All the coaches put us in the right predicament,” said Phommachahn. “I believe them, and I hope they believe us too.”
Phommachahn, a sophomore, is a star in the making. Missed tackles, mispronounciations, his name strikes as much fear as his game.
“[I get it] all the time. Foo-mam-kin,” he said. “I just go with it.”
“They’re not going to mess up his name too much longer,” Santiago said.
Xavier Bass and Jahzaari Mullings are another pair of college recruits and President playmakers.
Mullings is skilled at capturing the moment.
“It’s just a good look for me. I like the selfie face,” he said.
Check out the video above.