It doesn’t take Rockmart coach Biff Parson long to give a detailed rundown of what the Yellow Jackets lost to graduation. Last year, Rockmart won the region title and went to the third round of the Class AA State Playoffs before falling by a touchdown to eventual state finalist Fitzgerald. 

While a lot of pundits and other coaches have pointed out that Rockmart might be the team to beat in Region 7-AA, Parson is quick to point out some other key factors. 

“This reminds me of a lot of 2018 when we went and played for the state title, and we lost 23 seniors and a lot of those guys that played significant time. This year is similar to that,” he says. “We lost 15 seniors from last year and out of those 15, 10 were two-way starters and played significant roles. We lost a lot of speed. You don’t realize how much speed you lose until it’s gone.” 

While the Jackets lost a lot from last year, the squad still has a good many weapons to utilize and has had a good off-season and summer. 

“We’ve had a good offseason. Everybody has shown up. We’ve had a couple of padded camps and some seven on sevens and our middle school kids have gotten some work as well,” he says. “We feel like we’ve had a productive summer, but we feel like we still need some more time. We’ve got a lot to replace and we are in new territory replacing a lot of faces.” 

Before anyone begins to worry too much about the Jackets, Parson points out that he and the coaching staff are used to it. 

JD DAVIS

Garg serves as the No. 1 singles player for the Wolves’ tennis team. She is also the high school’s valedictorian. The scholar-athlete says tennis is one of the ways she stays focused academically.

“For me, my athletics is more of my way to have fun, and how I escape homework, school, and other stuff,” she says. “I find it really fun to do tennis outside of school and for the school as well.”

Garg competes in the sport year-round. Typically, tennis is an individual sport, but when high school season begins it becomes a team sport as the singles players and doubles teams coalesce into one group, attempting to beat the other squad.

“I definitely look forward to the season. I have my own group at my individual tennis practice. The team is something really different,” she says. “We win or lose as a team. It’s fun to cheer on your teammates.”

Last season, Rome’s girls won the Region 5-6A crown but lost a close match, 3-2, to Chattahoochee in the opening round of the state playoffs. This year, Garg and her teammates hope to learn from that close loss and possibly make a run in the playoffs.

“Last year, we barely lost in the opening round of the playoffs. This year we have really good players, but it’s also about not letting things get to our heads. We just need to remain confident,” she says. “I think the team is really good this year, so I hope we can go really far in the state tournament.”

BRENT WASHINGTON

“That’s high school football in Class AA. You’ve got to patch it up. We’re not rebuilding. We want to reload and start the job of coaching the guys into positions to help the team,” Parson says. “We’ve got some experience coming back, and we’ve got some guys that have played a lot of football. We’re going to rely on those guys to help lead and guide the new faces.” 

The first player Parson mentions is quarterback JD Davis, a three-year starter who was all-region last year and threw for just shy of 1,000 yards while also rushing for more than 350 yards. Davis is a threat to run or throw on every single play. 

Another player Parson mentions is running back and linebacker Brent Washington, who played pivotal roles on both sides of the ball last season rushing for more than 400 yards and 10 touchdowns while also helping lead the defense. 

Other players to look out for include Nahzir Turner and Bobby High, who both made the all-region team in 2022. Turner made the squad as an athlete and High as a defensive lineman. Parson also says he is excited about Tristan Anderson who also made the all-region team as a wide receiver and also plays defensive back. 

“You’re looking at three or four guys that started the past three years and have had a lot of playing time,” Parson says. “These are the guys that have to help lead the team. We do have a lot of tackles and a lot of touchdowns coming back from last year.” 

Parson also notes that Tristan Anderson is another returner that has played on both offense and defense and will contribute in 2023. 

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Along with that, Parson says that a lot of players were able to get some time on the field during games in 2022.  

That could bode well because the offensive line is going to be young this season. 

“We could be starting two freshmen and two sophomores on the offensive line. That’s just part of it though. We wouldn’t be putting them in there if we didn’t believe they could start,” Parson says.  

And that also speaks to something that Rockmart has focused on over the past few years. When the Jackets have larger leads, they tend to begin subbing lots of players, allowing younger players the opportunity to get some big minutes in actual varsity games. 

“We do call the dogs off at a certain score. We want to make sure that our program is getting work,” Parson says. “I’m not in the business of trying to score 80 points and the underclassmen don’t get under the lights. We start rolling in our younger guys when we get the chance to get them some good experience.” 

Rockmart also plays a daunting early-season schedule, including games against larger schools like Cass and Dalton and cross-town rival Cedartown to help prepare them for the region schedule later on. 

As far as what it’s going to take for the Jackets to make another run at the region title and a nice run in the playoffs, Parson doesn’t mince words. 

“Really for us, I think it’s the word trust. The players need to trust the coaches, the process, and the grind. One of our deals that we talk about is just believing in one another and believing each guy has to do their job the best way they can,” Parson says. 

And if the Jackets can do that, build on their experience while bringing the younger players up to speed, they could be right in the thick of the region race and a deep run in the playoffs yet again. 

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An injury while running at Auburn ended Jim Alred’s long-shot hopes of possibly competing in the Olympics, so he turned to writing and has been crafting award-winning stories across multiple mediums ever since. Along the way he’s been chased by a grizzly bear, worked as Goofy at Walt Disney World, been nominated for two Emmys, interviewed celebrities like Tiger Woods, Bo Jackson, Bill Clinton, coaches his daughters in cross country and soccer and can often be found running with his wife, Tara, around Rome.