The J.H. Rose Rampants will take the field Friday for a rescheduled game with Franklinton, and some of these JV players may have an opportunity to play. (252Buzz file photo by Bill Hudson)
By Mike Grizzard
A non-conference game before diving into the playoffs presents just one more scheduling oddity for J.H. Rose in a season marked by postponements, delays and playing on non-traditional nights.
More importantly, Friday night’s visit from Franklinton provides a good test against a quality opponent before the one-and-done playoffs start next week.
The Rampants and Rams both bring in 7-3 records after concluding their conference slates last week. They originally were scheduled to meet on Sept. 14 but were put on hold due to Hurricane Florence. The NCHSAA extended the regular season a week because of games lost to the storm, and the Rampants and Rams agreed to reschedule.
Count Rose head coach Dave Wojtecki among those glad to not have a week off, especially following a sharp performance from his team in a 49-14 rout of New Bern.
“Last week we started talking about playoff atmospheres and playoff attitudes and things like that, and we’re continuing that into this week,” Wojtecki said before Thursday’s practice. “This team is ranked higher than we are, so going in and beating a team that’s supposedly better than you are hopefully would build some confidence.”
Rose actually moved ahead of Franklinton in this week’s MaxPreps rankings of Class 3-A teams, standing 37th and two spots ahead of the Rams. Rose prevailed 41-20 in last year’s meeting for one of its three wins on the year.
Like Rose, Franklinton has experienced a turn-around season after a 4-7 finish with its only losses coming to unbeatens Southern Nash and Wake Forest and one-loss Rocky Mount. The Rams have scored at least 41 points in five of their seven wins.
“I think they’re a lot more aggressive than they were last year, especially defensively,” Wojtecki said. ”They get to the ball. They’re very aggressive, very tough group of kids.
“Offensively, they’ve got a big line and they run the ball very well, the quarterback and the running back.”
Rose rolls in with four wins in its last five games and its offense hitting its peak. Senior quarterback Grant Charles Jarman directed an efficient passing game last week, completing 19 of 23 passes for 227 yards and four touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Ben Harris hauled in eight of those passes for 97 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and Brice Bizzell sparked the running game with 121 yards on just six carries, breaking away for two long touchdown runs.
Most pleasing to Wojtecki, however, may have been the absence of turnovers and just one penalty for a team plagued by flags the last two years.
“Normally we move the ball well and get a penalty that sets us back,” Wojtecki said. “There’s always mistakes on film, but overall they did a great job as a team of playing well and eliminating our mistakes. I was very pleased with what we did.”
Wojtecki said special emphasis had been placed on post-play penalties that have resulted in personal fouls and ejections.
“The personal fouls we started doing some extra conditioning.” he said. “That was a major point to eliminate those things. The aggressive fouls, the holding, those things are going to happen in a game. We don’t really talk too much about that, but offsides, the personal fouls, those types of things, those are the things we need to eliminate. We’ve done it, and we’ve won games because of it.”
Rose will look to build on that against Franklinton as well as incorporate some players called up from an undefeated junior varsity team that has concluded its season. Wojtecki said the newcomers have injected energy and competition into practice.
“It’s been great for competition because they’re very talented,” he said. “The ones that we brought up probably could start on a majority of every other team around. … The running back we brought up, Michael Allen, is a very talented young man. The receivers that we brought up are very good receivers. If there’s a time when our receivers aren’t doing very well, I’ll throw those guys in there.
“Those kids want to prove themselves, so they’re going as hard as they possibly can,” Wojtecki said. “Just seeing that kind of perks up the effort in practice and intensity in practice so it’s been good to get those guys in.”
Wojtecki said he will not hesitate to play any of the younger players if needed.
“It’s not like they’re just coming to practice; they want to play,” he said. “I told them after that last JV game that if they can take somebody’s spot, go ahead and take their spot. I think they’ve taken my word, and some of them are going to play some special teams. I’m not afraid if we need to put one of them in to put ‘em in.”
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.