Some things change once you’re the defending N.C. High School Athletic Association 3A state champion. Coach Jason Battle is trying to remind his players what didn’t.
Rocky Mount (14-2, 5-0) defeated Belmont’s South Point High 24-21 in an overtime thriller in last year’s title game. But the Gryphons can’t forget who they are, says Battle.
“One of the first things we had to get out of was feeling entitled. People feel like they’re entitled to this or entitled to that just because we won a championship. That’s not what made us successful in the beginning,” Battle said. “What made you successful was being humble and appreciative and thankful for every opportunity that got you there.”
He continued: “Our goals kind of remain the same each year ... We’re not state championship-oriented. We’re not going to sit back, look up and say ‘If we don’t win a state championship, we’ve failed.’ That’s not really the purpose of our program or what we’re trying to do.”
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How is the team adjusting to defending champ status?
At the same time, there’s no doubt things will feel different for Rocky Mount, just from looking across the field at the other sideline.
“You’ve always been the hunter, but you’ve never been the hunted the way you’re going to be hunted this year. It’s not going to sink in until they play a game,” Battle said. “It’s not going to sink in until they realize just how harder people are going to play now, just so they can put that on their résumé that they beat the defending state champions.”
Who are some players to know?
The headliner is senior linebacker Sherrod Greene (154 tackles, 11 for loss), who has SEC and ACC recruiting interest and sports an offer from Alabama.
“He has a knack of finding the football and a phenomenal skill set,” Battle said. “For an inside linebacker he runs very well. He’s a sideline-to-sideline guy.”
The Gryphons have talent all over, including defensive lineman Artavious Richardson (107 tackles, 16 for loss), home-run threat B.J. Sanders (7.8 yards per carry), wide receiver K.K. Edwards and title game defensive MVP Detrelle Revis.
Can the Gryphons repeat?
There are question marks on the offensive line, and the Gryphons are using 10-12 sophomores on the varsity – more than normal. But so long as Rocky Mount stays healthy and a new quarterback is groomed, there’s no reason it won’t be a title threat again.
More on the Gryphons
Last year: 14-2 (5-0 Big East 3A), 3A state champs
Five year average: 8-4 (3-2)
Preseason N&O rank: No. 4
Coaches: Jason Battle (head coach/Off. coordinator), J.J. Jones (Def. coordinator), Fonte Liles (QBs), Michael Peeples (RBs), Koron Nickelson (DL), Carter Varnell (LBs), William Cherry (DBs)
Contributors: B.J. Sanders (Sr., RB), Deangelo Collins (Sr., RB), K.K. Edwards (Sr., WR), David Keck (Sr., OL), Marcus Braswell (Jr., OL), Thomas Battle (Sr., DL), Artavious Richardson (Sr., DL), Sherrod Greene (Sr., LB), Detrell Revis (Jr., S), Charlie Williams II (Jr., DB)
The main number: 14 – after three straight 8-win seasons under Jason Battle, last year’s team exploded for 14.
Aug. 19 vs. South Granville, 7:30 p.m.
Aug. 26 vs. Middle Creek, 7 p.m.
Sep. 2 vs. Hertford County, 7:30 p.m.
Sep. 9 at Edenton Holmes, 7:30 p.m.
Sep. 16 at J.H. Rose, 7:30 p.m.
Sep. 23 at Hoke County, 7:30 p.m.
Sep. 30 BYE
Oct. 7* at Nash Central, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14* at Hunt, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21* vs. Fike, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28* at Southern Nash, 7 p.m.
Nov. 4* vs. Northern Nash, 7 p.m.
Note: *Conference game