Rogersville has gone through five consecutive losing seasons since winning the Class 3 State Championship in 2011.
This year, the Wildcats are poised to snap that streak.
“I really feel good about getting over the hump and getting back to the winning side. We finally have a little depth where we have some competition. I think that will make us better,” Rogersville coach Doug Smith said.
Jaytin Gutierrez will be tough to replace. The two-way all-conference selection led the Wildcats in rushing with 766 yards and tackles on defense with 100.
Weston Lawson looks poised to take over lead-back duties after backing up Gutierrez last season and rushing for 80 yards and three touchdowns. Lawson is a standout on the track with a season-best of 51.15 in the 400-meter dash this past spring, which was the area’s 12th-fastest time.
Senior Bronson Tavenner will provide a steady hand at quarterback as he returns for his third year starting. He provides a dual-threat look after throwing for 1,063 yards and six touchdowns and rushing for 586 yards and 10 touchdowns as a junior.
He loses his top target in Cole Vandersnick, but Ryker Strong and Jarrett Stiles return at wide receiver. Strong, who is a 6’5” high jumper, caught 14 passes for 257 yards last year despite missing much of the season with a broken hand. Stiles hauled in 20 catches for 247 yards and a touchdown.
The offensive line will be inexperienced with just one starter back on that unit.
The defensive line will set the tone for the Wildcats on the other side of the ball.
All-conference selection Cameron Chessick returns after recording a team-high three sacks last season. He was second on the team in tackles with 46 total. Noah Gann, Karter Wagner and Zackery Nixon will join Chessick on a defensive line with depth.
“We have four really solid guys who can play one way and play on the defensive line, which we haven’t had in quite a while. It makes a big difference. Those guys stay fresh and you can make adjustments on the sideline,” Smith said.
Brock Carter and Lucas Campbell return to the secondary with Stiles to bring strength to that group. Campbell and Stiles each had two interceptions last year.
All that experience has Smith confident his defense can keep opposing offenses off the field and allow the experienced Wildcat offense time to put points on the board.
“Our biggest thing is making sure we can defend. We gave up a lot of yards rushing last year. We think that we are going to be so much better defensively,” Smith said.
Rogersville opens the season on Aug. 18 at home against Central.