By Chris Parker
Rogersville football is moving in the right direction entering Mark Talbert’s third season. Last year, the Wildcats won three games including a district quarterfinal game. This year, Rogersville is poised to take the next step with four all-conference selections returning.
Talbert has two options at quarterback in senior Zach Bergmann and junior JJ O’Neal. Both will see time under center this year.
“We have two kids that can be pretty decent high school quarterbacks competing for that job. I don’t necessarily know that we will have them directly competing as much as both making an impact at that position,” Talbert said.
Bergmann started last season as quarterback, but a season-ending injury pressed O’Neal into service at quarterback. Bergmann threw for 656 yards and six touchdowns while rushing for 323 yards. O’Neal threw for 553 yards and seven touchdowns while leading the team with 91 carries for 609 yards and five touchdowns. He also caught 14 balls for 153 yards. Those efforts earned him first-team all-conference honors as an all-purpose player. Bergmann earned first-team all-conference honors as a defensive back.
Four starting offensive linemen return led by senior Trystin Voss who will play both ways. He was a second-team all-conference selection at defensive end last season.
“Voss will be the guy up front that gets us going. He is as physical a kid as I have been around as far as coaching wise on the offensive line. He has a great motor. He has finally got the strength to match that motor. He is going to have a fantastic year this year on offense and defense,” Talbert said. “He is just a kid that comes by it naturally. He just has that ability to tough through it. He is an extremely mentally tough kid. He works as hard as any of our kids do in the weight room. If our weight room isn’t open he is begging me to come open it.”
Noah Carrow, Calvin Chainey and Carson Combs round out the returning starters on the offensive line. Carrow and Chainey will also play on the defensive line. Combs will play inside linebacker on defense. Jess Hanes will see time on both the offensive and defensive lines as well.
The backfield will feature Gage Meadors and Luke Hauer. Meadors will play linebacker on defense where he was honorable mention all-conference last season. Hauer took most of the carries at the junior varsity level last year.
The wide receiving corps will feature a host of new faces.
“One of our things that we set forth after the season last year was building a program in such a manner that we get kids to come back to the program that left for whatever reason. This year we have finally made strides on that,” Talbert said. “We have quite a few skill kids coming out for football either for the first time or for the first time in a few years. We have a lot of those kids that will be impact players for us offensively at receiver.”
The receiver group includes Addy Miller, Tanner Peterson, Colin Archer, Colton Burney, Logan Taylor, Cody Rasmussen, Jordan Williams and Riley Williams.
On defense, size will rule the day.
Up front on the defensive line, Voss returns after accounting for 80 total tackles, five tackles for a loss, four forced fumbles, three sacks and two fumble recoveries last year.
Meadors returns at inside linebacker with Combs. That duo brings a wealth of experience.
“Having (them) at inside linebacker for us allows us to play the run without having to necessarily get our safeties involved and gives us the ability to be bigger up front than we have in year’s past. Both of those kids are significantly bigger at this point than they were last year,” Talbert said.
Bergmann will move down from safety to outside linebacker this year. He had 48 total tackles last season. Drew Cornielson and Hunter Helmke will play key roles at outside linebacker as well. Hauer will also see time at linebacker.
The front seven is a big and strong group that is well positioned to stand up to the power run games of many Big 8 offenses.
“It (the size) makes every difference in the world,” Talbert said. “Those kids are big kids. They aren’t just tall skinny kids. That makes a huge difference when you are playing the flexbone option teams that we seem to face every week. I think it gives us a huge advantage going forward compared to the past couple years where we have struggled at times to stop the running attacks. I feel like this year, if we stay healthy, we will have what it takes up front to get those teams slowed down.”
O’Neal will return to lead the secondary and be joined by Peterson, Archer, Miller, Williams and Reuben Shvets.
Rogersville will look to progress this year aiming for the program’s first winning season in almost a decade.
“Our kids want to have a winning season. That is a huge deal for our players and coaches right now is to finish the year with more wins than we have losses,” Talbert said. “That would be the first winning season for Rogersville football since 2011, which was the state championship run. As far as goals this year, that is a big goal for us.”
Rogersville opens the season on Aug. 28 at home against Nevada.