I might have smiled slightly and shrugged, but never laughed. There have been plenty of times I’ve seen Cinderellas and bracket busters turn a season around in an instant.
But this isn’t the story of a team that came out of nowhere to flip the competition on its head. It’s about a team that looked to a new head coach to help them rise from mediocrity and along the way gave a town something it’s been waiting on for over 60 years.
Biff Parson’s road to Rockmart is an eclectic one with his roots in Georgia high school football.
His father, Ronnie Parson, was the head coach at Banks County from 1979-1988. He played at Franklin County High School — where he was an all-state quarterback — before playing at Liberty University in Virginia and, for a brief time, with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League.
Parson then started his coaching career back at Liberty and in the NFL Europe league before returning home to Georgia and making coaching stops at a few different schools — including Rockmart in 2007 as defensive coordinator.
When he was hired as the Jackets’ head coach in 2016, the team had gone 8-23 in the previous three seasons and hadn’t won a region title since 1988.
Rockmart finished second in Region 7-AA in Parson’s first season and advanced to the second round of the Class AA state playoffs. A trip to the Sweet 16 was in store for the Jackets again the next year, this time as the Region 7-AA champions.
In three seasons, Rockmart had gone from 2-8 to back-t0-back 9-3 seasons. But they weren’t done yet.
With a nucleus of senior leaders, the Jackets entered this season with the motto “Set the Standard.” And so far, at least as the last three decades of Rockmart football are concerned, that’s just what they’ve done.
From starting the season unranked and with little statewide attention to winning week in and week out by large margins and with game-defining plays, this team has shown that they are worthy of being a state-title contender.
Needless to say, the town has come out and supported the team in full force. Signs along Ga. 113 near the high school let travelers know they are in Jacket Country and a bus was set up to provide transportation for fans to and from Wednesday’s game.
How excited are Rockmart fans? Facebook posts last week centered on whether fans would be allowed to bring their traditional cow bells and milk jugs full of pennies into Mercedes-Benz Stadium. To the delight of many, it was discovered that they will.
I mean, what other town would make their high school’s entire football team the grand marshals for its annual Christmas parade?
The last time Rockmart played for a state football championship was 1957. It’s only win was in 1950. The folks in Rockmart know that this is a cause to celebrate, a team to lift up and a moment to cherish.
Jeremy Stewart is the sports editor of the Rome News-Tribune. He can be reached at JStewart@RN-T.com.