Clash of unbeatens: Rose looks to end long drought against mighty Havelock

J.H. Rose triple-threat Silas James -- a cornerback, wide receiver and punt returner -- says he thinks this year's team has a different mindset as they prepare to take on Havelock Friday. (252Buzz file photo by Bill Hudson)

By Mike Grizzard

Silas James was a mere 5 years old the last time J.H. Rose claimed a win over Havelock in football. That fact took a while to sink in for the versatile junior on the eve of a showdown of the two unbeatens.

“Eleven years. Eleven years. That’s a long time,” James said with a shake of his head after Thursday’s practice. “I wasn’t even playing football then. I was just reading books and running around.”

James, a cornerback, wide receiver and punt returner, was on the field last year when Havelock rolled to a 54-0 victory for its third win over Rose in three years and sixth straight since 2008. The Rampants reeled off four consecutive lopsided wins from 2004-07, long before James and his teammates lined up against one of the state’s premier programs.

He does remember the lack of fight Rose put up last year.

“I was a sophomore out there last year and witnessed our seniors quit, and us young guys tried to pick them up,” James said. “This is a different team and a different mindset.”

James sees Friday night’s 7 p.m. rematch at Percy Daniels Field as an opportunity for Rose to regain some of its stature as an elite program, one that won four consecutive state titles from 2003-06. Havelock now reigns as the beast in the east with a 100-8 record, five state championship appearances and three state state titles since 2011.

“It would boost us up in the rankings,” James said.

The Rampants are off to a 3-0 start for the first time since 2014 -- matching last year’s win total -- by rolling past New Hanover (49-6) and Laney (34-6) before getting past Hunt (21-14) in a weather-plagued game that was postponed after one quarter Friday and eventually cut short by lightning and rain on Monday.

The Rams overwhelmed each of their first three opponents, averaging 64.7 points in wins over West Craven (48-20), New Bern (77-13) and Wallace-Rose Hill (69-34).

The marquee early-season clash should generate “a playoff atmosphere,” but the outcome will have little bearing on the overall season with conference play still two weeks away, Rose head coach Dave Wojtecki said.

“One game doesn’t really measure us completely,” Wojtecki said. “Going into the state championship, we lost two games going onto that, so one game is not the whole season. People have got to understand that. If we do win, it doesn’t mean we’re going to win every game after that. Maybe we just played an exceptional game.

“We have to play a great game. Offense, defense, special teams, everything’s got to be great to play on this type of level.”

A much-improved Rose defense especially faces a daunting task in trying to contain elusive 6-1, 160-pound senior quarterback Anthony Harris and the Havelock offense. Harris has passed for 691 yards and 10 touchdowns, completing 33 of 54 passes, and rushed for a team-high 258 yards and two more scores.

“He’s a great running quarterback,” Wojtecki said. “They’re going to do formations to get you spread all out of the way and let him just run all over the place. Then when you try to squeeze down in to stop him running, he’ll throw it over the top of your head. You’ve got to kind of pick your poison a little bit.

“He’s going to get some numbers. You just can’t let him kill you with his numbers. You’ve got to kind of hope to contain him. You’re not going to stop him.”

Four other Rams have rushed for at least 114 yards, led by 6-0, 205-pound senior Cameron Hutcherson with 174 yards and six touchdowns on 19 carries. Welton Spotsville has been a dual threat with 11 receptions for 249 yards and four touchdowns and nine carries for 89 yards and three more scores.

Rose counters with an offense led by senior quarterback Grant Charles Jarman, who has thrown 11 touchdown passes and just one interception. Jarman has spread the ball to eight different receivers, and different ball carriers have shared backfield duties, led by senior Grant Humphreys.

The ability of Rose to control and protect the ball will be crucial against Havelock, Wojtecki said.

“Not a lot of people have scored on them, and they’ve scored defensively a lot,” he said. “We have to do a good job of controlling the ball, not making stupid mistakes, not turning it over because the turnovers, if you watch any film, turnovers are killing the other team. A lot of that is because their defense is playing so aggressively.”

A short week to prepare does not help, but Wojtecki said that just adds to the challenge.

“It’s always a pain because you have one less day to prepare,” he said. “We got film late to try to prepare. We’re not going to use that as an excuse. We’re going to play. Whatever it is it is and we’re just going to go out and play. We’re not going to use a short week to cover our butts at all.”

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.