Trying to build a winning program in high school football is hard enough.
Doing it from nothing is exponentially more difficult.
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That was the task assigned two years ago to Rocky Mount Prep coach Don Reams, who will lead the Jaguars in their second year of varsity football.
Every year has brought something new to the program. In Year 1, it was just a junior varsity program. Year 2 brought about competition at the varsity level.
Year 3 will introduce the Jaguars to a home crowd for the first time. Rocky Mount Prep will play four home games this season at the Rocky Mount Sports Complex. Reams, and the entire team, is hoping something else follows after a winless first year at the varsity level.
“We’re tired of getting those L’s,” senior linebacker Jared Parker said.
Whether it was a lack of size or discipline, Rocky Mount Prep was only within 30 points once last season – against North Lenoir’s junior varsity team.
This year has brought about a new attitude. There seems to be new life in the Jaguars, who will play in the Two Rivers Conference alongside Tarboro and North Edgecombe.
“I feel like they’ve planted some good seed,” Reams said. “It’s time to get some harvest to come in.” Harvest could come early for the Jaguars, who open the season at home against KIPP Pride. The Jaguars lost to KIPP Pride in the season finale by 32 points – their closest margin against a varsity program.
Although Reams, who coached at Tarboro before taking over the Rocky Mount Prep program, hasn’t been able to install his entire offense, he has faith in his playmakers, most notably Mark Tann.
Tann will play quarterback and running back for the Jaguars, and Reams said it will be important to find ways to put the ball in his best offensive player’s hands.
“I feel a different culture, a different vibe around everybody,” Tann said. “Everybody wants to go hard in the weight room and at practice. We want to get faster and stronger.”
Tann added that every player has brought something to summer camp.
The veterans bring back experience, but the freshmen bring in a renewing excitement.
“The freshmen didn’t feel what we felt last year, when we went 0-9,” Tann said. “They bring something to the table. They’re smiling. They’re laughing. They’re having fun with everybody, saying we’re going to make something happen this year.”
The entire season will start in front of the Jaguars’ home crowd. Rocky Mount Prep is just hoping the program’s first victory follows soon.
“Winning takes care of a lot of things,” Reams said. “Winning takes care of the running. It takes care of the fussing. ... If we can be fortunate enough to get things in place and get a victory over KIPP Pride, it will give us more momentum than we’ve had. It’ll be the first in school history.” Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org