Hephzibah coach John Bowen calls it the “price of admission.”
That’s what the Rebels pay if they plan to suit up for his team. Hephzibah’s players have to work hard during the season and the off-season. Laziness is unacceptable.
“We have some juniors and seniors here who may have played football in the past and for whatever reason they took all summer off,” he said. “They came in the last week wanting to play football. Well, it’s too late.
“...We want people who want to play football and are going to pay the price.”
Bowen hopes committed players will help reverse a recent trend. After the Rebels posted playoff appearances in 2008 and 2009, Hephzibah has recorded a pair of losing seasons.
Last year, the Rebels opened with a pair of close losses before suffering five consecutive blowouts en route to a 1-9 campaign.
“We got off to a rocky start, and some of our seniors didn’t quite buy in and have the type of season we thought they would,” Bowen said. “I wanted to see more fight out of the kids, and that’s what was disappointing.”
“We had the talent. We just didn’t have the leaders,” senior running back/cornerback Shilo Ulcena said of the 2011 team. “This year is different. We’ve got the leaders and the talent.”
Bowen has altered his offensive mentality this year. Hephzibah has switched from pass-first to a double-wing rushing attack led by sophomore quarterback Chris Hall. Bowen thinks his team can establish a ground game with running backs Ulcena and Marcus Smith.
On defense, senior tackle Leejohn Phillips will help anchor the line in the team’s 4-3 set. Middle linebacker Jalen Bell, the team’s leading tackler last season before getting hurt in the fourth week against Thomson, also is expected to make an impact.
Senior running back/defensive back Marcus Smith said success will come from how the Rebels act off the field.
“We need to act like a family,” he said. “My freshman year, we acted as a family. We all fought together. That’s what we need to do.”