Rocky Mount High coach Jason Battle’s job in his second year is going to be harder because his first year didn’t do him any favors.
Along with the additional responsibilities of a second-year coach, Battle now has to find a way to follow an eight-win season, which ended with a home playoffs loss.
(STORY CONTINUES BELOW)
“It only gets hard every year,” Battle said. “... Seriously, it only gets harder.”
Although Battle thought the responsibilities might lighten up a little bit, after winning that many games for his alma mater, which won just six games in the previous two years, things definitely change.
“Once you set a precedence of 8-3 in Year 1, you can’t take steps backwards,” Battle said. “You’ve gotta have a feeling of progress on a daily basis.”
So not only are things tougher this year, but Rocky Mount also has to find a way to replace running back Mason Hines, who ran for more than 1,000 yards each of the past two years and was last year’s All-Area Offensive Player of the Year.
But Hines was just the spotlight in the actual reason for Battle’s unexpected first year.
Battle has to replace a senior class, although not bereft of talent, filled with players who knew how to lead with discipline. While the Gryphons will lean on juniors Broderick Caudle and Rashawn Harris to replace Hines’ numbers, Battle still has yet to find who will replace the entire class’ leadership.
“It hasn’t been exactly what I would have liked for it to have been at this point,” Battle said. “I set the bar for those guys real high. They’re getting better, but they haven’t gotten to where I want them to be.”
The seniors recognize there still is work to be done.
“There’s a little bit more work,” senior right tackle Delasio Bartley Jr. said. “We’re completing it so far. I think we are going to do really well this season.”
Senior defensive end Tony Batts added: “It all starts here – in practice. It all starts in practice,” Batts said. “Everybody has to continue to be motivated.”
In the Big East Conference, where there are no clear-cut favorites to win home playoffs games, the Gryphons have a chance to repeat and earn another home playoffs game with a top-two finish.
“I think we can match that, but it depends on the tempo in practice,” Bartle Jr. said. “If everybody works hard and we have the leadership we had last year, we can do it again.”
The things that rank highly on Battle’s list of importance might not be what most would want to see. Wins aren’t on there, neither are points.
Instead, it’s enthusiasm in practice that he desires. He wants to measure his team by their discipline. Then, there’s the leadership -- something that could set the table.
In Year 1, those were the things Battle wanted too, and it translated into victories. He’s hoping the same formula reaches the same result this year.
“I feel like this could be a make-or-break time, but it could also be a break-out time,” Battle said.
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or email@example.com