2018 Record: 14-1 (7-0, REGION 7 AA)
Head Coach: Biff Parson (32-7, 2 region championships, and one state championship game appearance in 3 seasons at Rockmart; 42-27 overall)
All Time Record: 839 games – 434 – 379 – 26 (53%)
Total Seasons: 96 First Season: 1923 All State Players: 50
Region Championships: 10 (Last in 2018)
State Championships: 1 (Last in 1950)
8.23 at Cedartown
8.30 vs Central
9.13 at Heard County
9.20 at Armuchee
9.27 vs Dade County
10.4 at Chattooga
10.25 vs Coosa
11.1 at Gordon Central
11.8 vs Model
In the three years that Biff Parson has been head coach of the Rockmart YellowJackets, his high school football team has transformed into a powerhouse. They have gone from finishing with a middle-of-the-road region standing, to a force to be reckoned with in Region 7AA.
“We repeated as region champs, which hasn’t been done since the 1950’s here at Rockmart. Going back to back was very important,” says Parson. “We fed off the high of the region win throughout the playoffs. Our guys did well in the first two rounds considering we survived a five-hour road trip, rain and a hostile environment in Jefferson County. Last year, Rockmart hosted a fourth-round playoff game for the first time in 62 years.”
Parson goes on and continues to recap Rockmart’s biggest season in decades; “We got to experience the Benz, although it ended up not being a very good experience on our end. We don’t feel like we played our best game in the state championship, as we didn’t play a sound game like we had the previous 14 games. But I tip my hat to our opponent… Theypulled it off.”
The group of seniors from the 2018 season will always have a place in Rockmart history.
“We had a great group of guys last year,” says Parson. “We had a lot of three-year starters on the team and a lot of skill position experience. They carried the team and will be greatly missed. They definitely left their mark on this program and helped build the culture here at Rockmart.”
Capping off the historic 2018 season in which the YellowJackets went 14-1, as well as traveled to the GHSA Class AA state championship game, Parsons puts it proudly: “there were a lot of historical marks that hadn’t been accomplished here in 2018. And man, it was a long season, and it was a fun ride. But when you go long into November and December, you know your team is doing good things.”
Going into 2019, Coach Parsons and his staff have a special connection with this group of seniors. “This is a special bunch. They came in with me when I was first hired. As a head coach, when you come in with that class, it is just special. It’s not easy to explain, it’s just one of those deals,” smiles Parson.
How will you replace lost players? That is a common sports media question when beginning a new season. Coach Parson is as enthusiastic about the football program that he is developing, and he is proud of the accomplishments they have already achieved.
“We’re not replacing, we’re reloading,” explains Parson. “We feel like we’re doing a good job here in Rockmart to retain our players, to have players come out [to participate], and to generate more interest in our football program from the middle school to high school. We feel solid as a program, we have some really good seniors on this team and some good underclassmen to follow, for years to come. But honestly, we haven’t arrived yet, because we haven’t won a state championship, which is our ultimate goal.”
On offense, the Yellow Jackets will again be electrifying for the 2019 season. There’s a new face at quarterback this year, and big things are expected from him. “We feel we have a really dynamic QB, Javin Whatley (junior). What he can bring to the table with his ability to run and throw will be huge for us,” Parson says. “And while Whatley isreplacing a great quarterback in Dylan Bailey, who threw for a lot of yards and won a lot of games for us, Javin brings a different dynamic with his ability to run with the ball.”
Juke Boozer (senior) and Reed Couch (senior), a pair of super-talented and heavilyrecruited players, will be catching passes from Whatley. “Boozer is a six-foot-three, 180-pound wide receiver who creates matchup problems for opponents, because this kid will go up and get the football,” explains Parson. “And Couch is a really good, nearly six-foot-four, 220-pound, three-year starter at tight end.”
Rockmart’s grinder guys include Jamaal Thompson (senior), and Deacon Allen (senior), who has been playing varsity since his freshman year and has committed to a college as a defensive lineman. Jourdan Rachel (senior), is also a key player and Parson describes him as, “one of the best, highest character kids I’ve ever coached.”
Another defensive anchor is safety Paine Culver (senior).“Paine is a mean player who doesn’t mind getting dirty, even at 145 pounds soaking wet,” smiles Parson. “He’s always out there tackling everybody. This will be his third year starting. The kid really sacrifices his body every time he goes to hit somebody.”
Overall, the coaches like what they see. “We have some very good, experienced players coming back this year,” Parson says. “And in between all of that, from freshmen to seniors, we’re sandwiched with good talent. We’re excited. A big key is to stay healthy. In some spots, we aren’t depth strong yet. There are some positions on offense and defense that we have to find some depth. So, while we do have weaknesses, we have players that we are confident in as time gets closer to do the job(s).”
All parts of a football team are important, and the YellowJacket’s coach does not fail to realize that. “Special teams play a big part; they are huge,” Parson says. Rockmart has sophomore Cooper Yanzetich returning punting duties. He will also battle it out in camp with senior C.C. Briscoe for all of the kicking duties.
Parson goes deeper into special teams and what it means to his program.
“One of the main reasons we were so successful last year is because we spent more time focusing on special teams’ units. We reviewed our first two years when we went 9-3 and lost in the second round both years,” says Parson. “We evaluated where we were in an effort to not be that program that’s stuck in the mud, to not be the ones that’s doing good in the regular season and then couldn’t get out of the early rounds of the playoffs. Special teams were an area that we lacked in. We weren’t very good in that area and it was kind of our prior approach and philosophy to special teams’ units. Basically, how we put people in position. We adjusted that approach and decided that we were going to put our athletes on the field, regardless of what special teams’ unit it is. The players have to go run and tackle.”
A football program involves all levels of your identity, from the top down. Parson is involved every step of the way. “My philosophy is if you’re not a starter offensively or defensively on Friday night(s), is that you have to get some time on Thursday. A non-starting player is not guaranteed to get time on Friday nights, because you don’t know what kind of play time the game is going to give them. Therefore, if you’re a quality backup, we want you to get grass time on Thursdays. We have some juniors that will play down, and we’ll have some backups that will get some quality time and a couple of reps on Friday nights. But we just want them to get some experience, to have some grass time and get better so we can evaluate them.”
“It is hard to have a sophomore or junior, as a backup, awaiting his time on Friday and it never happens. Then, after the starter graduates, that guy never got playing time on junior varsity or varsity because we were trying to get even younger players ready on the JV. That’s why some juniors have to get their time on Thursdays, to avoid that scenario” coach Parsons explains.
“We’re here to compete, we’re here to win, and we want to play our best guys. We are going to play our best guys, those that are meeting expectations on Monday through Thursday. Really, if they want to get playing time, regardless to if its Thursday or Friday, they’ve got to compete out there on Mondays through Thursdays. And if you’re the best Monday through Thursday, you’re going to play Friday.”
Rockmart Middle School is just as much a part of the YellowJackets’ football program as varsity and junior varsity.
“The middle school participates in workouts with the high school. We are very close here, the high school and middle school. A lot of places have it set up as high school football and middle school football, but here in Rockmart, we have a football program. It currently consists of grades 6 through 12. We are going to build a football program that’s well respected and competitive in this state,” Parson says, even going a little deeper about Rockmart’s youth football program. “It even starts with your younger kids. As a head coach, you have to be involved there, you have to be visible. The little kids have to know you, they have to know you care about the sport, about them, and about being successful. Showing that interest has and is paying off.”
RMS has a new head coach as a longtime member of Rockmart’s athletics has retired. Coach Mathis had been involved in Rockmart athletics for 33 years when Parson was hired, and he took over the middle school program that year. He led them to the middle school championship game for three consecutive years.
Their new coach is Brandon Haywood, a Rockmart alumnus. “We got him to come home, to come coach at his roots. He’s going to be very good for the program,” says Parson. “Josh Duff is also helping him. We have some very good guys down there to help them.”
“As far as on the field,we’re as talented, top to bottom in our middle school as we’ve ever been, which is good as it’s the future. We have a lot of expectations for them this year and for the years to come” says Parson.
Rockmart High Head Coach Biff Parson is straight forward and direct, and has no issue letting you know, he wants to win, sports clichés be darned. “You get in this profession here to win. If you’re not in it to win, I feel like there’s something wrong with you. Now obviously winning isn’t everything, but to me, it is everything.”
He elaborates further: “in my own opinion, regardless to what everybody else thinks, you’re still teaching them about life. You’re still teaching them character… but in the midst of teaching those things, I am trying to compete and win also. I think that’s the mindset and culture that we have taken on here at Rockmart.
“From all of my experiences of playing and coaching at every level, players are going to be an extension of the head football coach whether he likes it or not. I want my players to understand that whether we’re in the weight room, on the practice field, on the game field, or in a classroom, I want to be the best. I will hold them to that high standard.” The experienced players understand the culture, they are also helping the coaches teach it to the youngsters. “Our core group has been here every day of the summer” says Parson. “The newbies don’t understand the culture yet, and it is our leader’s responsibility to lead by example. They’ll eventually follow suit.”
Parson is entering his fourth year at Rockmart High. Every season brings accolades that were once common at the Polk County high school. He has worked to build a bond with his players, his coaching staff and his team’s potential to win this upcoming season. “I have been blessed with a really great coaching staff and some really good players. I can tell you it isn’t Coach Parson’s coaching that is making things happen. I am not that smart,” Parson says as he laughs.
“We are excited about the 2019 season,” Parson says in closing, “and we are excited about things that are going to happen around campus. There is a new scoreboard going up, along with new press boxes on both sides of the field. Anyone in Rockmart or the surrounding area who wants to come watch some good football games this seasonwill be here on Friday nights or wherever Rockmart plays.”