REHOBETH – The 63-7 loss a year ago to Greenville sticks out like a sore thumb in what was a winless season for Rehobeth.
The 6-0 win at Greenville this season well illustrates the strides the Rebels have made in compiling a 4-1 mark with Class 5A, Region 2 foe Carroll coming in for a visit on Friday night. The four wins are the most since 2015 and with four regular season games left, the Rebels need only two wins to earn their most victories since 2005’s 10-win team.
“This is the exact same kids that we had last year,” Rehobeth coach Donny Gillilan says. “They just got baptized by fire. They got punched in the mouth over and over.”
Rehobeth is punching back this year.
Cameron Hovey, an undersized senior tailback at 5-foot-9, 160 pounds, is a good example of the toughness of the team. He had surgery to repair a broken ankle suffered during the spring while sliding into a base during a baseball game, yet has returned to the football field as the go-to back when the tough yards are needed.
“He’s 160 pounds, maybe, but he plays like he’s 260,” Gillilan said. “He’s gotten some hard 3-yard carries. We talk about it all of the time that we’ve got to have 3 yards. If we can’t get anything else, we’ve got to have 3. And that kid is going to get those 3 if not more.”
Hovey and his teammates were determined to make things different this year. Some much needed confidence came in Week 1 with a 36-22 win at Ashford.
“It gave us a boost coming from winning no games to coming out and winning the first one,” Hovey said. “That was big.”
A crushing 6-0 loss followed at Charles Henderson, but then Rehobeth rebounded by beating Beauregard 33-21 at home before the 6-0 win at Greenville.
“It’s crazy,” Hovey said of the score differential of the past two games against Greenville. “It’s hard to explain.”
Senior linebacker Grant Peacock, a second team all-state pick a year ago, explains it this way.
“They picked us for homecoming,” Peacock said, alluding to a hint of disrespect from Greenville. “I mean, I’m the middle linebacker and I try to run the defense, and I was just telling them, ‘We’ve just got to hit them in the mouth every play.’ We just tried to control them. Thank goodness the offense had our back and got down there and scored for us. It was a big, big win for us.”
The momentum continued with a 28-25 overtime win over Wicksburg last Friday night when quarterback Jay Trawick connected with Trey Turner on a 5-yard pass for the final points.
A year ago, the talented Trawick took only a handful of snaps before being lost for the season to an injury. He was in competition during the preseason with Kase Keasler for the starting quarterback role. Keasler is now among Trawick’s top targets as a tight end.
“It’s been a high-character move on everybody’s part to make this work like it has,” Gillilan said. “We were having a little trouble blocking the edge (in opener against Ashford) and doing some things and Kase said, ‘I can do that, coach; I can do that.’
“So we put him in and he did do it. He’s really stepped up and is really being a team player.”
Payton Jinks is a 5-foot-11, 280-pound bruising nose tackle who is among the hardest workers on the team. He’s helped anchor a defensive front that makes life tough on opposing offenses.
“He’s double-teamed virtually every week,” Gillilan said. “He never says a word and just keeps fighting that double team. He does the dirty work a lot of people don’t want to do and then he still makes the plays.”
Jinks has a strong bond with his fellow seniors, many of who have been playing on the same team together since they were in youth league football.
“I’d take a bullet for any of them,” Jinks said. “Now, I love all the seniors from last year, but this year the seniors were a lot more hyped up and we knew that we were not going to go 0-10.”
He isn’t surprised at how the defense has performed.
“It’s not that we’re the biggest, or most athletic or strongest, but we’re all brothers,” Jinks said. “You hit a guy, but if you can’t get them down, you’re holding them up and you’ll have the other 10 coming for you. It’s never like a one-man thing.”
Peacock credits the defensive front for helping to make the job easier for him and the rest of the unit.
“This year the D-line has really stepped up,” Peacock said. “They’re all eating up tackles.”
Gillilan talks with pride about the closeness of the team.
“It’s hard to talk about the individuals because this has been a huge group and team effort,” Gillilan said. “They hang out together, they care about each other, they play good together, they push each other – they do the things we talk about.
“They’ve endured the lows. They had every opportunity to kind of shut it down and accept status quo, but they refused to.”
As the wins have piled up, going to school during game week has become a lot more enjoyable.
“Oh, it’s awesome,” Peacock said. “Last year, everybody talked about us losing, and now this year they’re talking about how good of a year it is. There is a lot more school spirit.”
The upbeat Gillilan is proud to see the hard work paying off for the players. Before the school bell rang on Thursday morning, the team had already held their practice session for the day.
“I think high school sports should be fun, especially when you get to this point of the season because you’ve done so much of the hard stuff that they need to have some benefit for having enduring it,” Gillilan said.
“We went to some camps this year and it’s 115 degrees and you know they’re sitting there wondering is this really worth it? And now today at 4-1, they say, ‘Yeah, it’s worth it.’”