Rogel proving doubters wrong in first year

Published 12:20 am Sunday, November 9, 2014

I’d be lying if I told you I expected this for first-year head coach Zach Rogel.

Facing University Academy in the semifinals of the MAIS Class A playoffs Friday seemed like a fairy tale. Let me take you back to the early days of July, true dog days for Rogel. Trinity lost its three best players in Dee Fleming, Quinton Logan and Wyatt Boothe, who have all become stars for the Cathedral Green Wave. The losses were devastating, leaving Trinity and Rogel wondering if a season was even possible, with less than 10 players left on the roster. I can remember calling a depleted Rogel and talking to him about the whole situation. Those were hard conversations to have, especially knowing the pain Rogel was going through. After all, this was his dream job, being able to coach his alma mater, and in his first season on the job, it all went downhill. As a reporter, I had to ask the tough question, “Will there still be a football season for Trinity?” Defiantly, Rogel told me, “Oh yeah, we’ll have a season. I’m going to have to ride Cade Wells, but he’s sticking with us.”

At the time, Rogel was putting all of his money on Wells to carry the team offensively, and even planned on starting him at quarterback in place of Boothe. However, Rogel was gifted with transfers of his own in the form of Kevontaye Caston, David Jackson, Cortez Adams and Ernest Chatman. Each turned out to be important players, joining a tight nucleus that bonded over a tough transitional time. Perhaps, most importantly, the Saints found a quarterback in Caston, allowing Rogel to use Wells and make plays on the perimeter.

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The newly formed Saints put Rogel’s coaching ability to test, having to coach up a team that had more sophomores than seniors, juniors and freshmen combined. Trinity suffered back-to-back losses to begin the season, dropping games to University Academy and Centreville Academy. Rogel didn’t fret, or at least, he didn’t show it. He put his arms around the kids, and he stuck with them, truly believing that they would turn their season around. Then came the win streak. Trinity reeled off five straight wins before losing to River Oaks. Following the loss, the team won out, and defeated Central Holmes in the first round to improve to 8-3 on the season. After everything the team had went through, I admittedly bet against Rogel and his Saints this past Friday night. Trinity was going up against a Columbus Christian Academy team that runs a double-wing based offense. Judging by Trinity’s inability to stop the run in previous games, I thought Rogel’s first-year run was about to end abruptly. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Instead of Trinity’s season ending, the Saints demolished Columbus Christian 38-12 without one of their best offensive lineman, Spencer Adams, in the lineup. Caston was phenomenal in the game, eluding would-be tacklers and making plays with his legs. He also found open receivers, and players such as Demond Fleming and Wells turned on the jets once they were in open space.

While I was watching, I kept thinking to myself, “man, this is what Zach has been aching for. Finally, this group of sophomores have grown up and reached their potential.”

You have to give Rogel credit for the job he’s done, taking a young group from a seemingly hopeless future to a strong possibility of repeating as state champions.

Whether Rogel and the Saints upset University Academy this Friday or not, it shouldn’t matter. Just being one of the four final teams under the given circumstances is more than enough for every football fan in the area to tip their hats. So to you, Zach, I give you mine.