The No. 2-ranked Yellow Jackets will try to extend their historic season Friday night when they welcome No. 4 Callaway to The Rock for a Georgia High School Association Class AA state semifinal matchup.
“It’s just one of those seasons as a coach, and I’m sure as a player, that you want to be a part of,” Rockmart head coach Biff Parson said. “Our community has blown up. They’ve jumped on the train and given all kinds of support. It’s exciting for the town. I keep talking to a lot of guys that have been here for a while, and they say in 30 years they’ve never seen this type of turnout.”
According to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association, the Yellow Jackets (13-0) have already surpassed the program’s mark for most wins in a season, besting a 12-0 record in 1950 when Rockmart topped Valdosta for its first — and only — state championship. The Jackets last played in a state semifinal game in 1988.
Parson credits his team’s success to a standard he has held his players to since he became the head coach in 2016. With three straight winning seasons under his belt, Parson has led the Jackets to back-to-back Region 7-AA titles.
“Three years ago when I took this job, one thing I wasn’t going to waver on was having a standard,” he said. “All I want is all they’ve got, and our consistency with holding kids accountable is what has helped us be successful from year one to year three.”
The Jackets bring a high-powered offense to the table led by a trio of seniors — quarterback Dylan Bailey, and running backs Markus Smith and Zabrion Whatley. Bailey has thrown for 1,423 yards and 21 touchdowns with only four interceptions, while Smith and Whatley have made themselves a dual threat on the ground, each rushing for just over 1,000 yards and over 15 touchdowns.
Callaway, which knocked Rockmart out of the playoffs in the second round last season, have proved to be a force in the playoffs. After finishing the regular season as the No. 2 seed out of Region 5-AA, the Cavaliers have rolled off three-straight wins, including bumping off defending Class AA state champion Hapeville Charter 31-13 on the road in the second round.
“They definitely have cost me a lot of hours of sleep,” Parson said. “They’re a really talented, athletic team — the most talented team we’ve faced. Their speed and size matches ours. They’ve got a great offense, but so do we. It’s going to come down to who is dialed in for four quarters. A simple mistake could lose you the game because you’re facing a very talented team.”
Callaway (11-2) is no stranger to playoff contention, having advanced to the semifinals for the third time in six seasons. The team’s only losses this season have come against Class 4A’s Troup County and 5-AA champion Heard County, which is playing Fitzgerald in the other Class AA Final Four matchup Friday.
Cartavious “Tank” Bigsby leads the Cavaliers’ ground game with 1,443 yards in the regular season, while Qua Hines covered plenty of ground in Callaway’s 35-20 win over Washington County last Friday, running for three second-half touchdowns.
Fans will have a chance to show their support for the team before Friday’s game at a community pep rally tonight at 6 p.m. at Rockmart High School.