By Alex Norman
A whole lot has changed for the Knoxville Central Bobcats since winning their first state championship in football five months ago.
“The excitement from the community for sure,” said Central head coach Bryson Rosser, now in his sixth year running the Bobcats program. “Our kids… our new group have been humble and hungry. But the excitement around the community and how we are enjoying the success has changed quite a bit.”
Last December, the Bobcats edged Henry County 14-9 in the Class 5A title game; a contest delayed a day due to inclement weather in Cookeville. The experience was one that Rosser will never forget.
“It was surreal,” said Rosser. “To have a group of kids that played so well together and listened to their coaches and were so disciplined week in and week out… it was such an accomplishment for me to be part of the team.”
This wasn’t a fluke by any means. In the 2000s, some terrific Joel Helton led teams were stymied in late November. But the Bobcats had been knocking on the door in recent years. In 2016 they advanced to the state title game. In 2017, they made it to the semifinals. And 2018 was finally the year it all came together.
But that was 2018.
“These kids understand that last year was last year and that was the 2018 season,” said Rosser. “2019 brings with it new challenges and they have been up for the challenge. They have been working really hard in the classroom and working really hard in the weight room and we are looking forward to getting back out here and getting better.”
We had the opportunity to catch up with Rosser and the Bobcats during a recent spring practice session. There is work to be done before fall camp begins in a few months.
“We have some holes to fill for sure,” said Rosser. “That is the beauty of high school football. I’m looking forward to it and always enjoy being around the kids. We have a few skill players coming back. On offense our quarterback is back as well as a couple of running backs, a couple of wide receivers and a lineman. On defense we have our entire linebacking corps coming back. We will be missing a safety and a corner and we have a returning defensive lineman.”
Come August you’ll have the chance to see the Bobcats as they attempt to defend their state title. Central’s first game is on August 23 against Cleveland. Central football is something that all are high school football fans need to experience up close. “We are passionate about our relationships,” said Rosser. “You see me and the kids and the coaches always high five-ing and hugging on the guys. We will get on them but always bring them up higher. We are really demanding them to be disciplined and give the best attitude every day that they can, because being out here is a blessing every day.”