JH Rose quarterback Grant Charles Jarman attempts a pass during the 2017 football season. (252Buzz file photo)
By Mike Grizzard
With a roster stacked with 28 juniors a year ago, head football coach Dave Wojtecki anticipated some growing pains for his fifth team at J.H. Rose. He also knew that group eventually would grow up.
Signs of a more mature and more talented team emerged on opening night of the 2018 season as the Rampants overwhelmed defending 3-A state champion New Hanover 49-6. The loss not only avenged last year’s 69-21 loss to the Wildcats but gave Rose its first season-opening win in three seasons as it tries to bury the memory of a 3-8 season.
The Rampants bid for their second win -- and a second dose of redemption --- on Friday in their home opener, hosting E.A. Laney of Wilmington. The Bucs, who fell 35-13 at home against Pinecrest in their season-opener, defeated Rose 39-12 last year in Wilmington.
But this is a different Rose team.
“It’s like night and day,” Wojtecki said after Thursday’s practice. “We knew that junior class was talented. I think they lost one game on JV, so we knew they had the skill. Varsity’s a different ballgame, a different speed and a different strength. They all had another year to get stronger and faster. It’s a big difference.”
The difference showed in every aspect of the game. A defense that surrendered at least 49 points five times and an average of 43.9 points last year stymied New Hanover, allowing just 11 rushing yards and 155 total yards.
Senior quarterback Grant Charles Jarman showed poise and directed an offense that piled up more than 600 yards. And Rose came up with big special-teams plays, blocking a punt and a field goal.
Wojtecki credited a change in schemes along with the addition of coaches Kidah Sneed and Garrett Wingate with helping plug some holes on defense. Seniors Wesley Shade (11 tackles) and Phifer Ozimek (interception) and junior Greg Kuhn (five quarterback hurries) spearheaded Friday night’s effort.
“We changed our whole schematic from last year to this year,” Wojtecki said. “We got to add two coaches, which has helped tremendously. It’s a big thing for our guys because they can start seeing that stuff’s working, and they can start trusting what we’re doing. It’s big for the kids to trust what you’re calling and trust what you’re teaching them.”
That same formula worked on offense, where a balanced Rose amassed 327 yards rushing and 284 through the air. Jarman completed 19 of 31 passes -- spreading the ball to seven different receivers -- and threw five touchdowns with one interception. He also rushed four times for 48 yards.
Jarman got Rose off to a lightning-quick start, hooking up with Jake Henry Rogers for a 90-yard score on the game’s second play. Rogers also hauled in a 51-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
Senior Ben Harris had a team-high six catches for 70 yards.
“GC made a lot of really good reads,” Wojtecki said. “He had two or three series where we had to talk to him about getting the ball out on time and things like that. He did a great job reading the run game. That’s what we really needed him to do. Sometimes he’s got to pull the ball and run the ball. He did that, and it opened up the run game a lot.”
Jarman threw for 2,375 yards as a junior with 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Like much of the team, Wojtecki has seen his senior leader grow up.
“The big difference is his decision making so far,” Wojtecki said.
Mike Grizzard of Winterville has more than 30 years of experience as a writer for both print and digital publications in the areas of sports, business, news, faith and personal profiles. Contact Mike at 252-916-4206.