2018 RECORD: 13-1 overall (10-0, REGION 7-AAAAA)
HEAD COACH: John Reid (49-7, 3 region championships, 2 state championships in 4 seasons at Rome; 123-39 overall)
ALL TIME RECORD: 316 games – 220-95-1 (70%)
TOTAL SEASONS: 27 FIRST SEASON: 1992 ALL STATE PLAYERS: 63
REGION CHAMPIONSHIPS: 10 (Last in 2018)
STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS: 2 (Last in 2017)
8.22 vs Marietta (Corky Kell Classic)
9.6 vs North Clayton
9.13 vs Kell
9.20 at Carrollton
9.27 at Cass
10.4 vs Woodland
10.11 at East Paulding
10.18 vs Paulding County
10.25 vs Hiram
11.1 at Villa Rica
In 2018, the Wolves were in pursuit of a three-peat that was derailed on a return trip to the site of the 2017 state championship game, Warner Robins, Ga. That night’s 28-45 loss brought a 40-game winning streak to an end. It also ended the high school careers of multiple players who had contributed to the championship rise of the Rome Wolves, including three RHS legends of the gridiron, the highly decorated running back Jamious Griffin (Georgia Tech), wide receiver Xavier Roberts-Donaldson (Florida Atlantic University) and quarterback Knox Kadum (Virginia Tech).
“There was some disappointment with the outcome of the 2018 season,” says Rome High Head Coach, John Reid. “We didn’t play as good as we had played in the previous 40 games in that last game. Once you sit and reflect though, the season was a great season. We rose as high as number 13 in the country in the USA Today Top 25 poll, and it is always neat to see ourselves there. We won the region for the third time in a row, a very tough region, and we clinched it last year with three weeks remaining in the regular season. And to think, a lot of people thought we’d have a down year after consecutive state championships. The players did a great job in 2018.
Replacing legends will not be easy. Everyone played and gained experience and that is big with the Wolves replacing 16 starters from 2018.
“2019 is exciting due to replacing so many guys on both sides of the ball,” Reid continues.”As a coach, you dig down and you work harder. We’ve been building depth. We have some really good players that have been playing junior varsity, playing on special teams, and playing as backups and we really look forward to seeing them play this year. We have to get ready because we have a tough schedule this year, beginning with the Corky Kell Classic at Barron Stadium versus Marietta. And down the road, we have Kell and Carrollton early in the schedule.”
The Wolves’ offense has been a thing of beauty for several years. Many records were broken. But graduation has left the Wolves with three starters returning on offense in 2019.
“I’m excited about what’s going on,” says Rome offensive coordinator, Chris Boden. “It’s fun for me. For example, I had a four-year starting quarterback and a four-year starting tailback to replace. Seeing new eyes in the huddle and having to reach inside myself and go back to some of the roots of the offense and teach it, I enjoy that. Fortunately, we have a lot of kids who played a lot last year due to blowouts, so the experience of the unit is good, and the learning curve has been great.”
Boden follows up by saying, “we always want to run the plays as best we can, do our jobs, and win the next play. If we can put enough good plays together back to back, we have a chance to win.”
Reid, speaking about the offense, likes what he sees. “We have a big, veteran offensive line led by Aiden Gaines who was first team All-State in 2018 and Quantavious ‘Tic’ Leslie who was also first team All-State. Then you have Stepheno Green, Odesmun Heath and Jabez Adams leading the charge up front. At quarterback we have Caleb Ellard, a junior, who is a big kid with a good arm.”
Wide receivers Adam Peterson, Jay Wise, Justin Ingram, Donta Foster and Kenny Williams will be catching passes from Ellard and back up QB Maliek Ash. “Every team is different and every offense is different, and we always want to score a lot of points, whether its throwing the football or running the football or whatever the case may be, it just has to be within the concept of the whole team” says Chris Boden who coaches the Wolves’ offensive side of the ball.
Leading the running back corps will be Traceton Lawrence. “Tray had 21 touchdowns as a reserve last year. And something else that may be surprising to some is that Lawrence is already top ten in rushing yardage in RHS history,” says Reid. “He and the rest of the running backs have a chance to make a big impact this season.”
Graduating seniors can sometimes leave a unit with little to no leadership, but the Wolves’ offense won’t have that issue in 2019. “The faces will be somewhat new, but our three returning starters are offensive lineman (Gaines, Leslie and Green) and they are our leaders,” states Boden. “The roots of any offense starts up front.”
Defensively, like the offense, Rome returns three starters from the previous season. Rome Wolves defensive coordinator, Wayne Groves, isn’t concerned about it at all. “We have guys who can step in and get it done,” Groves says,”but they just haven’t had the chance to do it yet (as starters). We’re working with guys who have been in the system, guys who have been working hard, and guys who have put in the time to learn the scheme, and it is now their time to shine. I’m very excited with the direction the defense is going. I think we are going to surprise some people.”
Reid agrees that, “the defense will be good. A player to look out for is senior defensive lineman Rayquan Jones. Some may not have heard of him because he was slowed by a sprained ankle early last season. He will be a big factor this year. Also, Jorden Neal, another senior defensive lineman, will be tough on the inside.
“Nick Burge will be anchoring the linebackers and Tim Jones will be a leader in the secondary. Then there will be some guys coming along that will have people saying, ‘Who is that kid?’ as they make plays this year,” Coach Reid says with a smile.
Coach Groves really feels good about the defense. “I like the dynamic of the team, I like the way the kids are working, and I like how they’re coming together” he says. “This summer we have been working on base fundamentals and getting better at mastering our core defensive sets, with emphasis on beating blocks and pursuing the football. Our leaders are doing a good job of helping the coaches teach the younger players. We want to win every down of every game and how you do that is by consistently performing at practice, doing the little things right, mastering your position, and get as good as you can heading into the first ball game.”
“I teach my quarterbacks that a punt is a good play,” says Boden. “I tell them to not make a bad call by me into a worse situation for the team. I stress to our kids that it’s okay to punt the ball because sometimes you must play the field position game. That’s to emphasize to them to never force things and do something to hurt the team, like turn the ball over. We trust our defense and we trust our special teams unit(s).”
The Wolves punted the ball only 14 times in 14 games in 2018, after not being forced into many fourth-down situations. Special teams kicking duties will be handled in some capacity by two players. Drew Cromer will be the holder for field goal and point after attempts. Cromer will also be the backup place kicker and have some punting duties. Alonzo Rodriguez will be the starting place kicker and also punt.
Rome’s junior varsity program has been very successful for the last five years. “The players are excited to play on Thursday nights and what’s important to us is that they play well while gaining experience and that they are a good fundamentally solid team,” says Reid.
Rome High’s freshman team will have a roster of nearly 40 players in 2019. “There are some big guys on that ninth-grade team” says Coach Reid. “We have a lot of talent on our JV and freshman teams and they have been working hard this summer. It is exciting to see.”
In addition to his involvement with the junior varsity and ninth-grade teams, Reid is also a regular face who shows up for the middle school and youth programs. “I’m excited about Rome Middle School football,” says Reid. “We have some really good coaches down there. Last year our sixth graders were state champions, and while there’s pressure to repeat as seventh graders, I just hope they get better and have a successful season. Also, the 2019 eighth graders have lost two games combined as sixth and seventh graders, and both of the losses were in the state championship game. So, we are looking forward to a great year from them and are really excited about their future.”
“I’m also pleased with the Rome Youth Football Organization (RYFO) and how those kids are making the next step to sixth-grade football,” Coach Reid says. “It is becoming a natural step because the kids learn to travel for games at a young age, as well as learning the fundamentals of the game and camaraderie.”
Rome Wolves football is a big deal, and everyone is ready for the 2019 season.