J.H. Rose Head coach Dave Wojtecki and his Rampant football team have had their schedule changed by inclement weather yet again this season. (252Buzz file photo by Bill Hudson)
By Mike Grizzard
J.H. Rose head coach Dave Wojtecki prefers his weeks during football season to follow a routine with all efforts culminating on game night on Fridays. Little about the 2018 season can be defined as routine.
Heavy rain and wind expected throughout Friday prompted Eastern Wayne to move its Homecoming and Eastern Carolina 3-A/4-A Conference game with Rose to Monday at 7 p.m. The change marks the fourth game Rose has had either postponed or canceled due to weather conditions this season, creating a planning and logistics challenge for coaches and players.
“You’re working all week for a common goal on one day, and then when that planning kind of gets interrupted, you’ve got to adjust everything real quick,” Wojtecki said before Thursday’s practice. “I found out at 1 o’clock that it was moved to Monday, so we’re trying to adjust the practice plan for (Thursday). Do we want to do a walk-through (Friday)? Do we want to bring them in on Saturday and do a walk-through? It just throws a wrench in a lot of things.”
The Monday game also creates a short week heading into the regular-season finale and Senior Night game at home against New Bern. The Bears also have had significant schedule changes due to flooding from Hurricane Florence and were scheduled to play three games in nine days, visiting Pamlico County on Thursday and Charles B. Aycock on Tuesday before facing Rose.
“At least we’re both playing next week at some point, so we’re kind of in the same boat so to speak,” Wojtecki said.
Rose’s bout with Mother Nature began during the third game of the season on Aug. 31 when a non-conference game at Hunt in WIlson began on Friday but was halted after one quarter by lightning and pushed to the following Monday. Another storm and heavy rain stopped the resumed game for good in the second half, and Rose left with a 21-14 win.
Another non-conference game versus Franklinton initially was pushed up two days due to the threat of Hurricane Florence but then canceled. An ECC game at Southern Wayne was moved up to Wednesday, Oct. 10, due to the threat of another storm bringing rain and wind.
“It’s been crazy,” Wojtecki said. “People that can adjust to it and still be able to play, it says a lot about them as players.
“I’m definitely a routine kind of person,” Wojtecki said. “... If you look at our practices, everything’s on a clock and on a schedule. That’s just how we are.”
Rose (5-3, 2-2 ECC) got knocked out of the race for the ECC title in a 48-21 loss to rival D.H. Conley last Friday but still can seal a solid seed for the Class 3-A playoffs with wins over Eastern Wayne (3-4, 1-2) and New Bern (2-5, 1-2), Wojtecki said.
“Nothing’s over,” he said, “I have scheduled this season until the state championship game. I said, ‘Every calendar you ever get is until the state championship game. I’m bought in until that game. Either you’re going to follow with me or we’re just going to go home early.’”
Rose will be looking to revive its offense after a struggle against Conley. The Rampants committed four turnovers and never got its passing game in rhythm.
Wojtecki said he and the coaching staff have worked with the receiving corps this week to create more separation from coverage.
“We really concentrated on contested balls with them,” Wojtecki said. “I actually went over with the receivers trying to beat on their arms when they’re trying to catch balls. We really worked on releases from press (coverage) and trying to stem the (defensive back) and give head fakes to get some separation. Hopefully it pays off in this game and we get better with it.”
Wojtecki said he challenged the receivers to use their size and strength to their advantage. Rose presents matchup problems with 6-5 Jake Henry Rogers, 6-4 Ben Harris and 6-4 Wesley Shade. Ethan Boyer, a 6-0 senior, recently has emerged as another weapon for quarterback Grant Charles Jarman.
“I told them it’s time to start bullying people and stop playing timid,” Wojtecki said. “The first two games they played great, bullying DBs, and made plays all over the place. Since then, they haven’t done a very good job.
“We have a talented, talented group of receivers that I think are underplaying right now. They’re not playing to their potential right now. Hopefully we can start building some confidence in them again and start making some plays. They’re very, very good. They’ve just got to make those plays.”
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.