The Rockmart Yellow Jackets are ready to come back for another run at the big game in Atlanta, and got an early start with their first practice in pads coming in the dark of night.
Head Coach Biff Parson was excited by the fan turnout for their Midnight Madness football practice to usher in the time when the GHSA allows teams to start working out on the field in full gear ahead of the start of the 2019 season. That means helmets, pads, and their full uniforms were on for drills during the first-ever event.
"We decided to change it up a bit and do this at midnight," Parson said. "There's a lot of excitement. And it's like I told the team, especially our seniors, the group I came in with as freshmen four years ago. Can you imagine this many people coming to watch you practice at midnight? They all said no."
He said "that's a product of what they've put into this program."
He added the team got a chance to rest up after practice during the evening before with days off on Thursday and Friday before the start of this week.
The Jackets, coming off a 14-1 season where they had to settle for State Runner-Up behind a Heard County team that during the 2018 regular season forfeited the contest at halftime, are looking to come back in full force.
Parson said they aren't just looking for a region championship, but a chance at the title game once again.
"You create a program that is used to success," he said. "It is their duties as seniors to come out with the opportunity to have the most wins as a group in Rockmart history. They take pride in that, and we've got a good bunch of leaders."
He added that "it was a good atmosphere to be out here" during the opening night practice event, with fans from all around the county enjoying the midnight air.
"Everyone wants to see what the Jacket nation is going to be about, and that's good," Parson said. "And with the first day of pads, it's a good time to separate the men from the boys. It's an evaluation period for us."
Rockmart has opportunities in the pre-season and regular season to show that the Jacket Nation is stronger than ever, and simply reloaded on offense and defense for the coming season.
First up is their opening scrimmage at home this Friday against Bremen, who they last faced in the Class AA playoffs when they took a second round home 25-23 win over the Blue Devils. The Jackets hold a 7-10 record against the Blue Devils in 17 games historically, and won in their scrimmage last year in a 17-16 finish.
The Blue Devils headed up by Davis Russell went 9-3 before their season was cut short by Rockmart in the playoffs.
Temple and Rockmart face each other in a second edition of scrimmage play after they took each other on last year.
In regular play, Rockmart holds a 4-0 advantage over the Tigers in play from 2006 through 2009.
Currently under the leadership of Scotty Ward, the Tigers last year went 1-9 over the entire season and only earned a win over Kendrick.