Fayette Academy, one of Tipton-Rosemark Academy’s biggest rivals, had beaten the Rebels five straight seasons heading into Friday’s DII-A-West showdown between the two teams in Somerville.
Two of Rosemark’s current assistant coaches were Rebel players the last time TRA beat Fayette Academy.
When Tanner Howell scored on a short run late in the first quarter to put the Vikings ahead 6-0, the Fayette Academy fans in attendance were probably thinking the winning streak was about to hit six.
It did not.
The Rebels’ (1-2) defense kept Fayette Academy (1-3) off the scoreboard the rest of the way and the Rosemark offense came alive in a 20-6 win.
“We used that as a big motivating factor,” Rosemark coach Shannon O’Brien said about the losing streak to Fayette Academy. “I think playing the two teams we played early helped us get better as a football team. We were very physical, which is something I hadn’t seen as much the first two games.”
Rosemark did not score in its first two games, losses to Jackson Christian and University School of Jackson, two of the better DII-A teams in the state.
That scoreless streak ended when quarterback Payne Fullen scored on a 35-yard run early in the second quarter to give the Rebels a 7-6 lead.
Three minutes later Fullen hit Jalen Hurt on a 70-yard TD pass to push the lead to 14-6.
After a scoreless third quarter, Nathan Washington kicked field goals of 25 and 37 yards to put the game out of reach.
The defense took care of the rest.
“I think, in the end, we ended up being the most physical football team and committed the least amount of mistakes,” O’Brien said. “I think that’s what ended up winning it for us in the end.”
O’Brien praised the work of his offensive line and the defense, which had six sacks and six tackles for loss. Gibson Phillips had three sacks and a forced fumble and Hurt had two fumble recoveries, one of which he returned 43 yards.
Fullen completed 6 of 14 passes for 121 yards and also rushed for 109 yards on 13 carries. Aidan Sprenkle rushed 10 times for 53 yards and Tucker James caught three passes for 40 yards.
“Payne Fullen had an outstanding game,” O’Brien said. “He’s improved each game.”
O’Brien said if it wasn’t for multiple dropped passes the game would not have been as closse.
“Our wide receivers are still dropping too many balls,” he said. “That’s something we have to keep working to get better at. We’re struggling in that area right now. Our receivers are still getting used to having more balls thrown to them.”
The Rebels host Davidson Academy, the state’s number one-ranked team in DII-A, this Friday.
“They are a lot better football team than the first two teams we played,” O’Brien said. “We’re going to have our hands full. We’re just going to keep working to get better. Playing against good competition will hopefully make us better going down the stretch.”