A SLEW OF TALENTED PLAYERS RETURNING FROM A TEAM THAT REACHED THE CLASS 6A SEMIFINALS before falling to eventual state champion Langston Hughes has the Wolves primed to attempt to make a run at another region title and possibly a deep run into the Class 6A state playoffs this fall.
Before he talks about that, Rome coach John Reid has a quick warning.
“I think it’s kind of silly to be talking about winning state championships when you’re a Class 6A football team,” he says. “So much goes into it. We want to win state, but we need to win region and get home playoff games to be able to have a chance to get there.”
The Wolves also have a mini speed bump of sorts to clear as six coaches departed in the offseason, including two who took head coach positions. Reid wasted no time bringing in replacements and praised his new coaches and players for not allowing the changes to become a distraction.
“I think the coaches and the players did a great job of getting in here and adjusting to all the changes,” he says. “We started making changes early in the offseason with our conditioning and weights program, and the kids and coaches did great with it.”
Something that makes the transition easier is the large amount of talented players Rome has returning from last year’s squad. The Wolves bring back a slew of quality players at almost every position on the field. Rome also has some younger players locals may not quite know yet ready to step up into bigger roles.
On offense, quarterback Reece Fountain returns. The senior holds a slew of Rome passing records and has taken a ton of snaps. One of his favorite targets, wide receiver DK Daniel is back as well a year after being chosen as the region’s offensive player of the year. Daniel leads a deep and talented group of receivers for the Wolves.
Reid also points out the offensive line returns a lot of quality starters.
“We have some good kids coming back on the offensive line. Byington at center, Jarvis Adams, Cesar Parker, and others,” he says. “Our line has a chance to be a very good unit this fall.”
Reid also has high praise for the defensive line, where Rome has a history of producing top-notch talent over the past few years.
“I think the defensive line has a chance to be one of our best ever. Rishard Sullivan, Justin Terrell, Treyvon Adams, and some others can be really good,” he says.
Rome also has a wealth of talent in the defensive backfield with Joe Wilkinson, Jaedon Harmon, Rae Sykes, and a handful of others.
The Wolves are a bit leaner than usual at linebacker but Reid believes some of the younger kids who haven’t made big names for themselves yet may have a chance to step up and contribute this season.
“I’d say our linebackers probably need the most work. But we have some players who I think are going to turn some heads this fall,” he says.
Another thing in Rome’s favor is that the freshman and junior varsity teams both went undefeated last season with the junior varsity squad not allowing any other team to score on them. Several players from that squad will see action for the varsity team this fall.
Rome’s early season schedule also presents some challenges with the Wolves playing a tough Cass squad in the Corky Kell Classic at Barron Stadium to open the season. The Wolves also play host to Carrollton and Pebblebrook before kicking off region play in late September.
“We know that some of those early games are going to be big, and we just need to be able to stay focused and not get too high or too low whether we win or lose,” Reid says.
Region play begins with Rome at Allatoona, the team that finished as region runner-up last season. Although Rome went undefeated in the region in 2022, Reid notes the region is anything but easy.
“There are a lot of good coaches and some challenging teams in this region. Almost every team is bringing back their quarterbacks, so I’m expecting every game to be tough,” Reid says. “The big question is which team is really going to step up and challenge everyone else.”
As far as trying to rise to the challenge, Reid says the philosophy at Rome is simple. He doesn’t want a wolf to beat a wolf.
“A lot of it is really up to our players. They need to buy in, be leaders and do what we expect of them. We don’t need pre-snap penalties. We don’t need stupid post-snap penalties. We don’t need to miss workouts or have bad attitudes,” he says. “If we come to play and be good teammates and buy into everything, then we’ll be fine.”
And with that, Reid is out the door and off to practice. The field at Rome is buzzing with excitement as the new coaches and the players get ready to launch into a season they all hope will extend into the second week of December.