Rockmart ready for big start
♦ Chances are high for the Jackets in 2018 with senior leadership.
When the Rockmart Yellow Jackets suit up this Friday night, they’ll already have two games worth of experience under their belt for the 2018 season.
Sure, they didn’t count at all. But after the experience on the field down in Bremen and after press time for this edition at Temple last Friday, the Jackets are buzzing to get back onto the field.
Especially since this year, they’ve got a score to settle. Rockmart hasn’t won against Cedartown since their 2010 meeting, when the Jackets pulled off a 14-0 victory over the Bulldogs in the first year of former head coach Scott Hendrix’s career with the Bulldogs.
In the last 10 meetings from 2008 to 2017, the Bulldogs have won 9 out of 10 times.
This year it’s going to be harder. Rockmart is on the rise.
Since Biff Parson took over the program in 2016, the Yellow Jackets have been having turnaround seasons. The 9-3 Jackets in 2017 went two rounds in the Class AA playoffs, losing in a five-point game to Callaway after a first round 47-7 win over Monticello.
They went undefeated in 7-AA play last year as well to be the region champions for 2017.
Parson’s opening year as head coach also ended with a 9-3 year, with only a single loss in Region 7-AA to Pepperell and a second round playoff appearance having gone up against Fitzgerald and fallen on the road.
This year is different for the Yellow Jackets. They’ve got seasoned players ready to fly against their opposition on offense and defense, guys like senior Z.J. Whatley at running back, and Dylan Bailey ready to lead the Jackets downfield at quarterback.
Whatley was on the first team for the Rome News-Tribune’s All-Area Football offensive squad this year, along with Bailey getting an honorable mention and one player the Jackets will just have to live without for 2018, Markus Smith.
Smith is out for his final season with an injury, according to Parson.
A whole slew of offensive and defensive positions are seniors this year, with 15 members of the team as part of the Class of 2019.
There’s a lot of freshman and sophomores on this year’s team as well, in positions to have a chance to gain experience in what promises to be a hard schedule in the 10 weeks to come.
Parson said after the first scrimmage against the Blue Devils that his team still had work to do. They got a second chance to solve some of those problems during their Aug. 10 scrimmage against the Temple Tigers on the road.
Parson said the Jackets need to work on their execution on offense before they have to face Cedartown, the real challenge of the season before region play gets underway.
They also face other tough competition before mid-September’s 7-AA start. Rockmart has Central Carroll — another 5-AAAA opponent — and Heard County before they get into Region 7-AA play for the year, where they will spend much of the time facing opponents in 2018 with their opponents having home field advantage.
The Jackets have half of their season on the road against big opponents, forced to hit he road to Trenton face Dade County in mid-September, and drive to Lindale to face Pepperell, plus trips to the Coosa Eagles and Model Blue Devils.
Rockmart does host the first game of the region schedule at home against Armuchee, who is under a new head coach as well. They also host Chattooga and Gordon Central.
The Jackets have a lot of positives on their side this year. Seasoned players who want a chance to succeed at higher levels. Seniors who want to make their mark on a storied program.
Most importantly of all, they have the chance to learn a lot about themselves, and break a hard streak.
Rockmart players line up for a simulated blocking drill during practice earlier in the month. They’ve had time to go through two scrimmages since.Coach Tim Puckett works with defensive backs during an early August practice to get them ready to tackle the competition for 2018.
Rockmart linemen learn their blocks without pads.
Head coach Biff Parson works with his offense to get them ready for the start of the 2018 season during an early month practice.