It’s a scene that has been repeated over and over the last two years.
Bunn will find itself just short of the first-down sticks or end zone and a 5-foot-8 and 270-pound defensive lineman by trade will be summoned as the crowd roars. Opposing coaches and players point at senior Omar Rosa, cognizant of what is about to happen next.
Quarterback Quenten Wright hands the ball off to Rosa, who lowers his head, runs over a few defenders and secures the first down – or touchdown – before rumbling off the field as Bunn public-address announcer Bruce Tant shouts “Omarrrrrrrrrrrrr Rosssssssssssssa.”
“You pretty much know it’s coming,” Louisburg coach Dontae Lassiter said. “But you have high school defensive backs who are 135 pounds trying to tackle a kid who is almost 300 pounds and can also run a 5.0 40-yard dash. You just hope you guys hang on for the ride until some help comes. (Rosa) is a lot better athlete than people give him credit for.”
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Rosa has been moonlighting for the past two seasons as a short-yardage fullback for the Bunn football team – with bountiful success. Trickery isn’t a part of the plan when Rosa lumbers onto the field.
“When I get into the game, I can hear the coaches from the other team screaming that the big kid is going to get the ball,” Rosa said. “I guess it’s not a mystery, but they still have to stop it.”
A few bruises and a few yards later, the Wildcats have moved the chains – which is an accomplishment they have achieved often during their 2016 season.
Bunn, with an 11-1 overall record, will host Jacksonville’s Northside High in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 2AA playoffs. The Wildcats hope to equal or better last year’s playoff push, which concluded with the school’s first-ever trip to the state finals.
Look for Rosa to be a key contributor on both sides of the ball this Friday, though his situational work as a fullback tends to overshadow his strong efforts along the defensive line.
Since the beginning of the 2015 campaign, Rosa has delivered 904 rushing yards on 122 carries to go with a whopping 31 touchdowns. Even in his role as a short-yardage back, Rosa averages over 7 yards per carry, and one of the highlights of his career came when he found the end zone during last year’s state championship loss to Monroe.
Rosa has taken on an even heavier workload as a senior.
When Bunn fullbacks Chris Bumpers and Justin Miller went down with injuries early in the season, Rosa suddenly found himself as the Wildcats’ starter until Bumpers returned in early October.
“I was the only fullback left on the roster who knew all of the plays, so (the coaching staff) put me in there,” Rosa said. “I just looked at it as a great opportunity.”
Against Nash Central, a solid 3A club that finished with a 7-5 overall record, Roma overwhelmed the Bulldogs with 195 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 17 carries as part of a career-best performance.
“We talked earlier in the season about how we needed to get Omar the ball more,” Bunn coach David Howle said. “By the time the fourth quarter rolls around, other teams really aren’t interested in tackling him. He bruises people.”
That was evident from the first time Howle and members of his staff gave Rosa an impromptu tryout at the fullback position during a practice session. Rosa ran over and through his teammates – and a legend was about to be born at Bunn.
“We knew already how fast Omar could run for a kid his size,” Howle said. “So we figured it was worth a shot. He was a natural.”
There were some growing pains early on as Rosa first had to realize that he wasn’t in the lineup to imitate some of Bunn’s greatest halfbacks, a list that includes Tarik Cohen, Tevin Perry and Terence Stokes.
“I remember one game against Warren County when I tried to go outside and ended up hurting my knee,” Rosa said. “So that was pretty much the end of that. I figured out what I needed to do – just run up the middle and see if I could get tackled.”
During last year’s playoffs, as Rosa helped lead the Wildcats through a tough bracket, he was in the handshake line at midfield after a game when an opposing defender approached him.
“The guy from the other team told Omar that he wasn’t a running back,” Howle said. “Omar told him ‘I was tonight’. He didn’t mean anything bad by it – that’s just the way he is. He is a great kid – everybody loves him. He is one you coach and never forget.”
Rosa is currently being recruited by several Division III schools as a defensive lineman, and Howle thinks his prized player has All-American potential at that level.
But if his event college choice ever needs a short-yardage fullback, Rosa wouldn’t hesitate to rattle off his backfield resumé.