It’s always good to get that first win under your belt, especially to open the season.
And, after coming off a 3-7 campaign in 2015, the Rogersville Wildcats opened 2016 on a good note with a 31-6 nonconference victory over host Central on Friday night at Harrison Stadium.
“I’m real happy for our kids and coaches and our fans,” Rogersville coach Doug Smith said. “It’s been a while since we won the opener, and so I’m happy for our kids, happy for our school. But by the same token, we’ve got to get better. I thought our effort was good; we’ve just got to get to executing the football a little better.”
Junior quarterback Bronson Tavenner did his part by getting Rogersville on the board early in the first quarter, scoring on a quarterback keeper on a 16-yard run up the right side to put the Wildcats up 6-0 at the 9:16 mark. Central blocked the point after, but fumbled on the snap after the kickoff.
Cameron Chesick scooped up the ball at about the Central 30-yard line and ran it in for Rogersville’s second score with 9:04 remaining to make it 12-0.
The Bulldogs, who went 5-5 in 2015, had trouble getting much going in the first quarter. The team has gone through a tough transition from last season to this fall with a new head coach, a new system and a depleted roster due to players transferring. But coach Sean Nevills knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
“We learned a lot about ourselves,” Nevills said. “Obviously, we are a young team (only two seniors), but I tried not to play that card a lot, but it showed. We asked a lot of guys to step up and, obviously, you saw that a lot of those young guys had to play two ways, too.”
Last season, the Bulldogs defeated Rogersville 59-12, but it wasn’t really about revenge for the Wildcats.
“They played hard,” Smith said of Central. “There’s not many of them, but they played their tails off and their quarterback (Danny Adams) was in every snap. They’ll build that thing back, but my concern is with just getting better for the Wildcats."
The Wildcats’ defense didn’t allow Central to get anything going in the first, and pounced again early in the second quarter when Weston Lawson took a shovel pass from Tavenner into the end zone on an 8-yard run to put Rogersville up 18-0 with 10:28 to go.
However, the Bulldogs’ defense stepped up with its second blocked PAT of the half to keep the Wildcats within reach.
Once Rogersville went up 18-0, Central’s offense started to get on a roll, using up 6:13 of the clock and getting to the Wildcats’ 8-yard line before turning the ball over.
“Those early mistakes were kind of the difference of the game,” Nevills said. “Rogersville putting up 18 in that first half… if we don’t make those mistakes, it may be a different story second half. Young teams make young mistakes.”
Rogersville struck again early in the third quarter when Tavenner ran it in from 6 yards out to make it 24-0 with 7:41 left.
The Wildcats’ final score came when Ben Blake entered at quarterback and scored on a 6-yard run. Chesley McDonald’s PAT was good and Rogersville led 31-0 with 8:48 remaining.
The Bulldogs still had some fight left, as quarterback Danny Adams, who had been Mr. Everything all game, ran it in from 3 yards out to put Central on the board to make it 31-6.
“We played well, played hard, had a positive attitude at the end,” Nevills said. “It was a great finish, no matter what that score said.”
And, despite the margin of victory, Smith said there is still room for improvement for the Wildcats.
“You have a jamboree,” Smith said, “but when it’s for real, you find things out about kids and you just try to get better each week.”
ROGERSVILLE 31, CENTRAL 6
Rogersville (1-0) – 12-6-6-7-31
Central (0-1) – 0-0-0-6-6
Rogersville – Bronson Tavenner 16 run – kick blocked
Rogersville – Cameron Chesick fumble recovery – pass failed
Rogersville – Weston Lawson 8 run – kick blocked
Rogersville – Tavenner 6 run – pass failed
Rogersville – Lawson 9 run – Chesley McDonald kick
Central – Danny Adams 3 run – pass failed
Up next: Monett at Rogersville; Central at Jefferson City