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Bissell calls an audible, names Gant the starter

By Jared Green
Friday October 04, 2002

Berkeley High quarterback Dessalines Gant will start tonight’s league opener against De Anza, head coach Matt Bissell said Thursday. 

Gant, a 6-foot-2 senior, replaces junior Jeff Spellman. Spellman led the team to wins over Liberty High and Kennedy (Richmond) High, but Gant’s superior athletic skills and improving mental game convinced Bissell and offensive coordinator Clarence Johnson that a change was in order. 

“Jeff played well, but we owe it to the team and Dez to see what he can do,” Bissell said. “We want to give Dez a chance just like we gave Jeff a chance.” 

Gant, who can throw the ball 65 yards, made a pitch for the job last week against Kennedy by throwing a 20-yard touchdown pass on his first play in the fourth quarter. Gant relieved Spellman in each of the first two games with the Jackets comfortably ahead. 

Gant, who played only briefly for the junior varsity as a sophomore, realized he had a chance to win the starting job after throwing two touchdowns against Pittsburg High in a preseason scrimmage. The Berkeley High coaches quickly began giving him more snaps in practice, and Johnson has been diligent in getting Gant ready to play with the league opener as a target date. 

“After the scrimmage, I could see it off in the distance,” he said. “I’ve been working hard to get in there.” 

Bissell said the move is not necessarily permanent, and Spellman will undoubtedly be chomping at the bit if Gant should struggle. Bissell complimented the Bishop O’Dowd transfer for his maturity in dealing with the demotion. 

“Jeff’s shown incredible character through this whole thing,” Bissell said. “I have to commend his ability to see the whole picture, what’s best for the team.” 

Tonight’s game kicks off at 7 p.m. at Berkeley High.