Rebels appear much improved
This could be a breakthrough season for Parkwood High's football program.
The Rebels, entering their third year under coach Lynn Coble, have won just two games over the past three seasons. But Coble says the atmosphere and enthusiasm surrounding the program have improved drasmatically, and the schedule is more manageable after realignment dropped Parkwood from the Southern Carolina 4A/3A Conference into the Rocky River 2A Conference.
"There's a lot of excitement in the program," Coble said. "I like the way our kids have come together. I've seen these guys grow closer and closer over a two-year span. They're more like brothers than teammates. We have a little animosity sometimes at practice and I tell them that's kind of how it is with brothers."
Coble said he had roughly 60 players in the program in 2011 and 65 last season.
The participation number is up to 78 in 2012.
Porter Ridge, Union County's only 4A school, had the same number of players dressed out on the first day of practice.
"I feel good about the direction we're heading," Coble said. "The kids have really bought into what we're doing and they've brought a friend, so to speak. I feel good that we have 875 kids in the school and 78 of them are playing football."
Coble's response has been to turn up the intensity. He wants to see who really wants to be there.
"We can't get anybody to quit," he said jokingly. "We've tried. Not really, but we have pushed them harder. Nobody wants to go away. They all keep coming back."
The Rebels were overmatched at times last year, losing four games by 35 points or more, but should be much more competitive in the Rocky River.
It's not far-fetched to imagine Parkwood winning at least four or five games and making the playoffs for the first time since the program's last winning season (7-5) in 2008.
"We haven't watered down our schedule; we still play some quality teams," Coble said. "We're not shying away from anybody.
"As far as the playoffs, we know that's out there and it's definitely a goal, but we don't talk about it. If you start thinking about the big picture too much, it clouds what you're doing now."
The Rebels are much more experienced this year with eight starters returning on each side of the ball.
Senior Sam Mobley is among the school's best athletes and will start both ways for the second year in a row.
Mobley has been the Rebels' leading receiver two years in a row. He caught 11 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns in eight games as a sophomore, and followed up by making second-team all-Union County as a junior when he had 48 receptions for 732 yards and seven TDs.
"Sam has to be one of the best receivers in Union County," said Rebels senior cornerback Justin Holbrook, who has been playing varsity football with Mobley since they were freshmen. "He's a freakish athlete."
For the third straight year, senior Grey Wyrick will bark the signals from behind center.
Wyrick had more passing yards last season (1,134) than any other returning quarterback in Union County, and has his top two receivers back.
"Grey's a different person than he was two years ago," Coble said. "He understands the offense and what we're trying to do. He reads coverages much better. He's a steady presence in the huddle. It's going to be odd when Grey leaves here. We've had the same voice for three years now."
Wyrick has an excellent second option in the passing game. Junior Max Robinson had 34 catches for 435 yards as a sophomore and also rushed for 133 yards on 33 carries.
Coble said Robinson will move around a lot on offense in an effort to get him the ball in space.
Wyrick, Robinson and Mobley have spent a lot of time competing together. In addition to football, all three were contributors for the basketball team last season.
"They have a lot of chemistry and it shows on the field," Coble said.
"Sam and Max have high football IQs," Wyrick said. "They can read coverages and make adjustments. They've been doing that since they got here."
Junior Jorge Martinez and sophomore Tre Butler are competing for the tailback position and will enter the season sharing the job.
Three starters return on the offensive line, including massive right tackle Mason Myers (6-1, 310), center Conrad Mueller and left guard Chase Smith.
Coble expects senior tight end Brendan McWilliams, who missed last season with an injury, to give Wyrick another weapon.
"We can line him up at tight end but we'll also split him out," Coble said. "Brrendan's going to help us. We're excited about having him back."
Coble would love to have no two-way starters, but will start Robinson at cornerback, Wyrick at free safety and Mobley at strong safety for the second year in a row.
Wyrick said he likes playing defense: "It gives me a chance to hit people instead of always getting hit."
The secondary, loaded with experience, also includes Holbrook, who is back after missing six games with a broken collar bone last year.
Holbrook is one of the Rebels' most experienced players.
He became a starting cornerback at the end of his freshman year and has been a starter ever since when healthy.
"I think we're looking really strong this year," Holbrook said. "I feel really comfortable with our defense. We lost some guys on the D-line but we still have Michael Bishop and Dre Blake. I know they'll get after it and go as hard as they can, which makes our job easier in the secondary."
The Rebels return their top two tacklers.
Middle linebacker Treven Parker led the team in tackles with 79 as a sophomore in 2012, including six behind the line of scrimmage, and senior outside linebacker Cody Rape ranked second on the team in tackles (69).
Bishop, a defensive end, saw some varsity action as a sophomore and was a projected starter last year but missed the season with an injury.
Bishop will start as a senior, and Blake is the starting nose guard for the third year.
The Rebels allowed 40.5 points per game last season, and that number will have to drop significantly to become a playoff team.
Holbrook believes the Rebels put in the work in the offseason, and expects it to pay off.
"We had a great offseason," Holbrook said. "The intensity was there. It was a serious atmosphere. The people who weren't ready for it, or weren't committed to it, we ran them off. Now we're left with the guys who really want to be here and really care about the program."
Parkwood Rebels Projected Starters
Parkwood's 2013 schedule
Aug. 30^at Union Academy
Sept. 6^at Piedmont
Sept. 13^at Jordan-Matthews
Oct. 11^West Stanly
Oct. 18^at Forest Hills
Nov. 1^at Mt. Pleasant
Nov. 8^Central Academy
Parkwood's 2012 results
Central Academy 34, Parkwood 27
Central Cabarrus 42, Parkwood 7
Parkwood 35, South Stanly 14
Forest Hills 31, Parkwood 12
Davidson Day 53, Parkwood 21
Weddington 35, Parkwood 7
Porter Ridge 69, Parkwood 0
Sun Valley 60, Parkwood 7
Marvin Ridge 32, Parkwood 17
Anson Co. 35, Parkwood 0