For many high schools, back-to-back playoff appearances would be considered a success.
At Rocky Mount High, it’s not enough.
In Jason Battle’s third season with the Gryphons, a new standard has been set. Battle is no longer content with just making the playoffs, instead he wants to reach the second round of the 3-A state bracket for the first time since 2009.
Rocky Mount has lost in the first round of the playoffs each of the past two seasons for what Battle said has been lack of effort.
“What we have to do is change our work ethic,” Battle said. “I had the opportunity to see some championship programs practice, and the way they practice is at the same level they play at. That’s the difference.”
His plan of action?
Change the culture of the program.
In the offseason Battle turned his strength and conditioning program over to assistant Jermaine Jones in hopes of creating a competitive environment.
Jones implemented a workout regimen that he learned during his playing days at Elizabeth City State. The program focused on endurance and not the individual accomplishments that typically define a weight room.
Senior offensive tackle C.J. Betha shed 35 pounds in the summer in an effort to show the coaches his commitment level.
Battle said he believes strides like Betha’s will be important, but it also will take a team-wide makeover in the huddle.
“The first year we had the attitude of just feeling good about making the playoffs,” Battle said. “We have to teach our kids how to learn to compete and not just be comfortable with letting someone else win the battle.”
That messages applies to no one more than senior quarterback Joshua Carter.
Carter rotated snaps last season with J.T. Smith, but with the later graduated, and it will be Carter under center this season. He started last year’s playoff game against Hillsborough Orange and was sacked seven times in a 31-3 loss.
Carter said the losing performance left him with enough motivation to invest in Battle’s rebranding efforts.
“When we get to the conference and into the playoffs, we just see bigger guys. So the (offseason training) will help,” Carter said. “(In the past), we would work hard, but it always seems when we would get to those games and just fall off.”
“He’s ahead of where I thought he would be at this point,” Battle said. “He has done a good job of paying attention to detail.”
Carter is part of a core group of seniors expected to lead a young, but talented Gryphons squad. He’s joined on offense by Betha and wide receivers Rashawn Harris and Bikembe Kearney.
Defensively, safety Broderick Caudle will patrol the secondary while linebacker Channing Green will be the plug in the middle.
Sophomore Sharrod Greene will add depth at linebacker with sophomore B.J. Daniels in the rotation at wide receiver
Battle said he knows the transformation will take more than just an offseason conditioning program, but he said he’s already noticing a difference.
“We can’t just turn it on or off,” Battle said. “That won’t work. I see it at times, but we still have a long way to go.”
Andrew Ivins can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org.