Rex Mill quarterback Javon Henderson, the lone returning starter from last season’s team, is being counted on to be a leader this season for the defending champions. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
REX — It would seem if you graduated all but one starter from a team that went undefeated and won the middle school championship last season that this would be a rebuilding year.
Not so, suggests Rex Mill Middle School coach Rodney Screen.
Screen says this team might be as good as last season’s squad that went 9-0 and won its second title in the last three years.
“We might not be as big, but we are a lot faster overall with some good team speed,” Screen said. “Last season was a special team, and they played with that mentality to win. They expected to win.”
Several members of last season’s championship squad could see expected varsity playing time at either Mount Zion or Jonesboro high schools in 2013.
As far as this season at Rex Mill, quarterback Javon Henderson is the lone returning starter. Screen is asking him to be the leader of this group, which has been working out since early summer.
“We have a plethora of eighth-grade talent,” Screen said. “Now, Javon has to step up and be more of a vocal leader. The expectations of the former players, coaches, and teachers in the building is high for our program. We have a lot of people comparing us to last year. We have a lot of new players.”
Screen said that several students in the building have shown interest in the program, which has boost their numbers. He said the team has three sixth-graders, a first for him.
“What we did last season has really gotten a lot people interested,” Screen said.
“Last year was a tribute to the good players we had, and to their leadership,” Henderson said. “Now this year I have to be that leader on and off the field. We do feel some pressure because of what happened last season. We were definitely stacked as a team. This year’s group has to go out and win some games.”
Screen is very high on his defense, especially his linebacker corps, which consist of Ken Dicks III and Dalinn McBride. The coach was so impressed with the linebacker group that Rex Mill has switched from a “50” base scheme to a 4-4 to get more of playmakers on the field at once.
“We have six good linebackers,” Screen said. “We want to get more of our athletic talent on the field. We have had some surprise talent come out, and they will have the opportunity to contribute right away for us.”
“Last year, we had some good individuals,” he said. “This year, I think it will be a great team effort.”
The defense has some lofty goals to live up to as compared to last year’s unit. Rex Mill only allowed 32 points in nine games last season. Rex Mill opened the season on Tuesday against North Clayton.
During the preseason, Rex Mill defeated Morrow (38-0) and Sequoyah (28-0) in the teams’ jamboree games two weeks ago.
Screen said participation during the summer was great with an average of about 35 players for its two-a-day workouts three times a week. The Yellow Jackets also participated in a couple passing leagues with Pointe South and Jean Childs Young Middle in southwest Atlanta.
“This has been a very dedicated group,” Screen said. “Our summer conditioning was huge. We have a lot of positives this summer as we got ready for the season. These kids understand the expectations of this program. They are reminded in the hallways by the teachers, and we have former players to tell them about it.”