Written By: Brandon Hill
Last season was not kind for the Rockland Bulldogs, as new head coach Gerry Hunter and company exited the 1AD2 State Tournament after a single game following a 3-6 regular season.
In Hunter’s second season, the Bulldogs’ play caller will face the added challenge of replacing the players that helped notch Rockland’s three wins in 2018. With the departure of Pratt Mathews, the team’s leading receiver, tackler and 2018 MVP, Rockland will look for new faces to help make big plays on both sides of the ball. Hunter said while graduation took away one of his best all-around players in Mathews, junior quarterback Braden Permann will help anchor the offense and provide valuable leadership in the locker room.
“Braden Permann is a leader on our team. As a sophomore last year at quarterback, he kept us in games with his arm and legs,” Hunter said. “We lost nine seniors from last year's team. That is tough to replace. However, this year’s team brings in a great attitude with the ability to spread the field with some speed.”
Hunter said Permann’s downfield targets, senior receiver Jacob Hunter and junior receiver Levi Farr, should help his returning quarterback stretch the field, and freshman running back Brigham Permann will handle the ground game.
While Rockland’s agility and big-play abilities should be locked down for 2019, Hunter said the fight between the trenches will be more of a challenge. Four-year starter and lineman Zane Porath will return for one last season, providing that much-needed size advantage for the Bulldogs up front. Hunter said Porath, the team’s chief “man child,” will look to give the tailbacks wide-open running lanes while also stifling opponents’ ground game as he holds down the defensive line.
“Zane Porath is a man child that has been consistent in our program on the defensive and offensive line for four years,” he said. “We are not very big in the trenches. We need to be fast and smart to overcome our size.”
Hunter said what his team lacks in size and power, they make up for in speed and intelligence.
Those skills will be highlighted in the Rockland secondary, as Farr will look to lock down opponents’ primary receivers. Jacob Hunter and Brigham Permann will team up at the linebacker position, tracking down any running backs that make it past the Porath and the defensive line.
Hunter said the physical and mental growth of his younger players should make all the difference heading into 2019.
“They are stronger and faster than they were last year,” he said. “We have a talented group of freshmen coming in that will all gain playing experience for the future.”