HEAD COACH: William Dean (2nd season)
LAST YEAR: 6-4, lost to Friendship Christian in first round of DII-A playoffs
RETURNING STARTERS: 6 offense, 6 defense
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: WR/QB Sam Cannon, WR/RB Ellis Fullen, OL Ben Downing, DB Aiden Petrowski
KEY PLAYERS LOST: QB Payne Fullen, OL Gibson Phillips, WR Gavin West, OL Thomas Patton, LB Tyler Byrd, DB Cole Devitt
When the Tipton-Rosemark Academy Rebels hit the field for their season opener at home against Halls, the uniforms will be the same and there are some returning players who will be familiar to fans.
One thing, however, will be quite different.
Payne Fullen, the team’s starting quarterback the last two seasons, graduated.
Just how important he was to the Rebels was on display in last year’s regular season finale against First Assembly Christian School. He rushed for 243 yards and all three of Rosemark’s touchdowns in a key 21-19 league win.
After compiling 1,800 all-purpose yards as a junior, he went for more than 1,600 last year, primarily with his legs.
Senior Sam Cannon takes over the role of starting quarterback this year. While he has never started at quarterback on the varsity level, he got some time at signal caller last year in specific offensive sets.
Cannon’s skill set leans more toward passing than running, so fans might see the ball in the air a little more this season.
“Sam is ready to play quarterback,” said second-year head coach William Dean.
Cannon said he’s ready hit the ground running, or, more accurately, throwing.
“It’s been fun getting to be the guy for this team and show my talents,” Cannon said. “I’ve been getting in a lot of work with Ellis and other guys.”
The Ellis he speaks of his wideout Ellis Fullen, one of just five seniors on the roster. Fullen, who is Payne’s cousin, is the only returning player who made all-region last season. He was a receiver on the TRA Middle School team when Cannon was the starting quarterback so they are very familiar with one another.
“I’d say we’re already on the same page,” Fullen said. “He throws to me a lot in practice and in middle school so we know how to work with each other for sure.”
Other seniors expected to see a lot of action this year include Will Hughes, Beau Downing and Priest Timberlake. Hughes is a safety and linebacker who hasn’t played since middle school but decided to pick up the sport again this year. Downing, a three-year starter at center, will anchor the offensive line. Timberlake missed all of last season with an injury and will see time at linebacker, fullback and defensive lineman.
“All five seniors will play a lot,” Dean said. “They’ve done a good job of taking the reins, speaking up and taking leadership roles.”
Carson Funk is a transfer from Brighton High School who is expected to see playing time immediately. Aiden Petrowski, a standout baseball player, is a wide receiver and defensive back. Dean said he has looked very good in 7-on-7 action this year and will be a big contributor again this season.
Dean said things have been going well in the preseason, largely because the players have gotten to know how the second-year coach operates.
“One thing with this group is they know what to expect now,” Dean said. “They are a close-knit group and hang out together a lot. This year we started quickly instead of figuring out things as they went last year … We’ve been letting them compete with each other and let them figure out if they’re capable of doing the job.”
Although the Rebels have been a regular in the playoffs over the last decade, it’s been 18 seasons since the Rebels won a playoff game. That’s something the team would like to change this season.
“It’s always the goal, obviously, to make the playoffs, and we’d like to take it further than that,” Fullen said.
Said Cannon: “We definitely want to get to the playoffs and get over the hump and win a playoff game. We’ve haven’t done that in 17 years, I think. I definitely feel like this team could be the one that gets over the hump.”