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Rivals Rex Mill, Roberts Middle to square off

Photo by Derrick Mahone 
M.D. Roberts’ Lenox Copeland is already showing next-level playmaking ability for the Rams. The eighth-grader accounted for three of Roberts’ four touchdowns in its quarterfinal win against North Clayton.

Photo by Derrick Mahone M.D. Roberts’ Lenox Copeland is already showing next-level playmaking ability for the Rams. The eighth-grader accounted for three of Roberts’ four touchdowns in its quarterfinal win against North Clayton.

Rosby Johnson has been coaching football at M.D. Roberts Middle School in some capacity for nine years. He’s experienced the joy of a county championship in 2005 when the Rams defeated Kendrick 20-0.

He was an assistant coach then.

But after the Rams victory over North Clayton Middle 28-16 in the quarterfinal round of the county playoffs last week, Johnson — now M.D. Roberts’ head coach — admits he feels a little more excitement with this victory and these playoffs than in times past.

That’s because Johnson wants to taste a title as a head coach this time. And disposing of the Tigers —the team that stopped M.D. Roberts just short of a championship, besting them by two points in last year’s title game — gets Johnson that much closer to where he wants to be.

“We’ve come close many years but we’re hoping that this year is our year,” Johnson said. “We’re working hard and we know that we’ve got a huge challenge ahead of us Tuesday in the next round.”

That challenge will come from Rex Mill Middle School. The 7-0 Yellow Jackets shutout Riverdale Middle 38-0 last Tuesday, winning a showdown with their rivals from M.D. Roberts in a 5:00 p.m. game at Hampton’s Twelve Oaks Stadium.

In Rex Mill’s seven games, six teams have failed to score against them. Guess which team was the one that found the endzone?

“We’re the only ones that have scored on them,” said Johnson, referring to the Rams 30-12 loss to Rex Mill during the regular season. “They hit a bunch of big plays on us, and we came back to try and make it close. We’re going to have to eliminate those plays, come out hard and play with passion if we’re going to win that game.”

M.D. Roberts is led by wide receiver Lenox Copeland. The eighth-grader scored three of the Rams’ four touchdowns on the evening, and gives them instant big-play capability.

Meanwhile, the Yellow Jackets seem to have speed and talent littered all across the field. Defensively, they are led by linebacker AJ Crowder. Crowder spent most of the evening in Riverdale’s backfield terrorizing their quarterbacks and running backs. He had five tackles for losses in the first half alone.

On offense, Kazahiah Hall and Hassan Littles provide a one-two punch for the Yellow Jackets on the ground.

Johnson called the two schools “longtime rivals” who always seem to take turns knocking each other out of the playoffs.

He said he’s been trying in this week’s practices to instill in his team a sense of the type of effort they’ll need to advance past Rex Mill.

“The first part of practice we were sluggish and going through the motions,” Johnson said. “We had about half of the team missing for tutoring. But once we got the entire team out, practice became very spirited and we got after it.

“I expect the same effort Friday. Our kids know what’s at stake in this game and they welcome the challenge of facing Rex again. I would say the coaching staff is very pleased with the team’s mindset for this game.”