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Rockets’ title quest heats up early

The Rockingham Middle School football team practices ahead of its new season. (Deon Cranford/The Richmond Observer)

ROCKINGHAM — The Rockingham Middle School football team is gearing up for an exciting and promising 2023 season.

After a valiant effort last year, where they fell one game short of a Southeastern Middle School Athletic Conference (SEMSAC) title, the Rockets are more determined than ever to bring home the SEMSAC championship this year.

The team has completed two weeks of practice, but its pre-season preparation has been somewhat stymied by the same late-August high temperatures that have impacted many high school sporting events.  The coaches opted to keep their team indoors for half of its practices last week to avoid the hot afternoons.

Under the leadership of head coach, Zach Freeman, the team has been working tirelessly to build and improve its skills and strategies. Freeman has been joined by many new additions to the coaching staff, bringing fresh perspectives and expertise to help prepare the players for the upcoming season.

“I have a great and experienced coaching staff working with me this year,” shared Freeman.  “I had a couple of guys come up to me after the Hamlet game last year and tell me that they’d like to get involved.  Some approached me later and we reached out to others.  Now there are seven of us and I’m excited to be working with them.”

Joining Freeman on the Rockingham Middle coaching roster are Roger Webster, Jeremy Webster, Chris Covington, Julius Bowden, Deion Green and Brynt Moore.

While the Rockingham sideline will be loaded with top-notch coaches, Freeman feels that the leadership on the field will be just as strong. 

“We lost some great players from last year’s team, but we have a good core of returning players who are stepping up and teaching their new teammates,” Freeman said of his team.  “We have a lot of depth with great competition at every spot.  We should have great program strength for a couple of years.”

The coaching staff is focused on developing not only strong athletes but also well-rounded individuals who embody sportsmanship and character both on and off the field. 


“For the ones that want to play in high school, we want to get them fundamentally prepared,” Freeman said.  “That includes understanding the game, but that also includes listening, work ethic and good sportsmanship.  We want them to be successful on and off the field.”

The SEMSAC will look a little different this year as Anson Middle School will be moving to a different conference.  While this will shake up the schedules of many sports, football may benefit from Anson’s absence. 

In prior seasons, there were too many schools in the conference to allow every conference football team to meet.  This made it a little unfair when selecting championship participants as some teams had more difficult schedules than others. 

With Ellerbe and Cordova combining to form one team and Anson moving out, there are now only eight teams in the conference making it possible for all teams to meet within the seven-week schedule.  This is good for balance, but has removed the possibility of non-conference games.

“We will play in a jamboree on Sept. 20, but we will not be playing any of the South Carolina teams like we did last year,” explained Freeman.  “Right now, it looks like will be playing all of the conference teams.”

The goal of Rockingham’s 2023 campaign is a simple one – finish. 

“We definitely want to continue our county dominance,” Freeman said.  “However, our No. 1 goal is to get back to the conference game and win it this time.  If we stay healthy and focused, I believe these guys can do it.”

Rockingham will open its season on the road at Sandy Grove Middle on Sept. 27.  Game time is tentatively 4:15 p.m. 

All county middle school schedules and the details for the upcoming football and volleyball jamborees will be posted to the Richmond Observer Facebook page once all specifics are finalized.

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