“C’mon, Daaaad”. The plea escapes Jon Fant as a low croak, the opening note of a dirge that can’t be sung in full throat until his father, Phil, stops talking to a reporter.
The interview ends. Words are washed away in a stream of tears that seem to tell a love story—a love of lacrosse and one another. Colonial Forge’s season ended 30 minutes ago with a 12–7 loss to eventual state champion W.T Woodson, and the stadium is mostly empty.
But the father/son pair responsible for the Eagles’ recent rise linger into dusk on June 6, embracing for one last time what they were able to build—together.
“It didn’t really dawn on me until we were walking off the field,” said Phil Fant, the now two-time Free Lance–Star All-Area coach of the year. “The hug really caught me off guard, I wasn’t expecting that.”
The same could be said of Jonathon Fant’s impact on the area lacrosse scene. The VMI-bound attackman punctuated his stellar Colonial Forge career with 48 goals and 54 assists this season. Fant captained the Eagles (17–2) to Conference 4 and 6A–South region championships in earning repeat honors as FLS All-Area player of the year.
With a few exceptions, lacrosse players in the Fredericksburg area are built backwards. You find superior athletes, then set about teaching them the finer points of the sport.
Fant is one of those exceptions. As a youth player in Albany, N.Y., Fant’s lacrosse upbringing was steeped in equal parts stick skills and strategy. He calls it “lacrosse IQ.”
“They preached that if you were smart and you had the skills, you could play anywhere,” Fant said.
The Fants moved to Virginia before Jon’s eighth-grade year, and he stuck out immediately. Maleek Silvera, one of Fant’s future Colonial Forge teammates, remembers drawing the unenviable task of defending him during a freshman winter league game.
“He just did some type of hitch thing I’d never seen before, and it just completely shocked me,” Silvera said. “You could just tell he knew exactly what he was doing.”
Over the next four years, Fant’s trademark split dodge would go on to haunt countless Stafford County longpoles. After Colonial Forge played Stafford High this season, one of Silvera’s friends on the opposing squad divulged the Indians’ strategy: it hinged almost entirely on limiting Fant’s impact.
“They told me after the game, ‘we slide to Jon every time he gets the ball,’ ” Silvera said. “They don’t want him to score, but even when you call a slide on Jon, it’s really not going to help much. It’s going to benefit us, honestly, because he’s going to dish it off, or ‘be Jon’ and score.”
While Fant’s junior campaign was a study in goal production, he spent much of this past season honing his distribution skills. He added 13 assists to his 2016 total of 41, paving the way for teammates like Jacob Wilhelm (team-high 70 goals) to take advantage of the extra attention.
Last season, “I tried to put the team on my back when I should’ve worked with my teammates and trusted their skills,” Fant said. “I think that’s why, this year, the points that were scored on this team were a lot more spread out.”
Fant’s altruism was never more evident than in the Eagles’ 25–13 romp over James River in the 6A–South region final. He amassed 15 points on five goals and 10 assists in the lopsided victory.
“That is Jonathon, from top to bottom,” Phil Fant said of the performance. “In my belief, he is the one kid on a team that makes everybody else around him better.”
But perhaps more impressive than any dodge or dish is Fant’s ability to direct. An infectious leader, Fant would routinely post photos of impromptu workouts at nearby Embrey Mill Park to his Snapchat story.
Within minutes, he’d be joined by a handful of Eagle teammates.
“I think that his determination drives him every day,” Silvera said. “It’s something I wish I had, honestly.”
At VMI, Fant knows he’ll have to fight for his place alongside the other “Rats,” a term for first-year cadets. He’s excited for the structure and sense of brotherhood awaiting him in Lexington.
Out of all his wards, Phil Fant admits he was probably toughest on Jon during their respective tenures as head coach and star player. But as the two hugged it out on a June evening, that chapter closed, his were tears of joy.
“It’s every dad’s dream,” Phil Fant said.