By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Things are looking up for Tipton-Rosemark Academy Rebel Football.
Head Coach Colin Pinner is entering his second season with his system firmly in place. He returns a record-setting rusher in sophomore Mac Fullen.
The overall numbers are up and the senior leadership is at a quality level with players like quarterback Donald Crowe. Even younger players like junior Jake Roane are stepping up on and off the field.
Now the Rebels are ready to step into a new-look league with the private schools being broken up into three sections across the state. TRA will compete in the smallest group of private schools against teams like Rossville Christian, Davidson Academy, Fayette Academy and Nashville Christian.
“Our preparations have mainly been the same,” Roane noted. “But we’ve tried to work as hard as we can and play as hard as we can. We definitely think the new set up in the league gives us a better chance to compete.”
TRA doesn’t have to worry about the likes of St. George’s or Jackson Christian heading into the 2017 campaign. So when two-way players like Roane get to the fourth quarter, they will be battling opposition with a similar roster and make-up.
Roane will see time as a linebacker and defensive end while on defense. He will join forces with teammates like Clayton Brown, Grayson Crum, Tully Dunagan, Matthew Coats and Zach McCranie to control the line of scrimmage.
“We’ve got a lot of athletes who can run and keep up with everybody,” Roane noted. “We should be pretty good. We’ve got a lot of smart guys like Peyton Ryan in the secondary. He knows the defense pretty well and what coverages to get into. Tucker Pittman is pretty good at doing that also.”
The defensive players feel they will be working with an advantage on the scoreboard most this season because the offense has several skilled players returning like Fullen, Carter Weakley and Howard Gray just to name a few.
“There’s definitely Mac Fullen,” Crowe said. “He was our star running back. He broke a school record for rushing yards in a season with 1,200. Then we have our linemen like Tully Dunagan, Grayson Crome, Zach McCranie, Matthew Coats, Nathan Bradley and Christian Stafford. A lot of offensive linemen who are very experienced, all these guys are returning.
“They are very important,” the senior signal caller added. “Our blocking scheme, we do run the ball. We’re a run-first offense. So everything has to be good on every play.”
Pinner noted his offense will be run-focused with a no-huddle approach.
“It’s going to look very good,” Crowe said. “Last year we were very good at running the ball. This year I think we can pass it a little bit too. We’ve added some players who are faster. So I think we can look for that too.”
Roane said he hopes all phases of the game continue to improve from last season. In 2016, Weakley was ranked in the top 5 in the nation in kickoff return yardage averaging more than 30 yards a return. And kicker Franklin Garner has improved his leg strength and accuracy with field goals.
“Putting in the work,” the junior said. “A lot of time in the weight room, doing speed and agility drills. Doing whatever we can to get better.”
Both Roane and Crowe agreed with the new league set-up the Rebels have a better chance of returning to the State championship game for the first time since the Drew Hanks Era in 2004.
“We have to stay healthy,” Crowe said. “We don’t have a lot of depth.”
“We have a really good shot,” Roane concluded. “We have to come together and work as a unit.”
By Thomas Sellers Jr.