A new ball game

Stringing together victories has been an uphill battle for the Parkwood football team the past few seasons. But now, for the first time in four years, the Rebels are winning games.

Wide receiver Sam Mobley and quarterback Grey Wyrick hope to help the Rebels make the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

Wide receiver Sam Mobley and quarterback Grey Wyrick hope to help the Rebels make the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

Last season was brutal for the Rebels, who finished 1-9. And that was an improvement from the year before, when the Rebels lost every game and finished the 2011 season 0-10.

And they weren’t just losing games. They were going down in flames, giving up games with scores like 49-0 (Weddington), 58-6 (Porter Ridge) and 56-7 (Sun Valley). The story was the same for the 2010 season, when the Rebels finished 1-10 and didn’t win a conference game.

The football program was barely surviving and desperate for something, or someone, who could breathe new life into what had become known as one of the worst football programs in the state when coach Lynn Coble took over in 2011.

Now going into his third year as the Rebels coach, Coble seems to have turned things around.

The Rebels moved into the Rocky River 2A conference this season in what has been a positive transition for Parkwood, who now boasts a 4-3 record under Coble’s leadership. In the first conference matchup of the season, on Oct. 11, the Rebels dominated West Stanly with a 41-0 victory – the first conference win since Oct. 30, 2009.

“We started bottom up, and that’s a tough thing to do,” Coble said. “These guys, they have worked hard for three years. They bought in as a group from the beginning when I walked in the door. They were starved for success and to do things the right way. They bought in, they worked hard, and now they’re getting what they deserve.”

No one was more starved for success than now-seniors Grey Wyrick and Sam Mobley, who have both played on varsity and endured the losing hardship since their freshman year.

Wyrick, the 6-foot-1, 175-pound quarterback, has 955 total yards including 11 passing touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns of his own. He certainly has an easy target in Mobley, the wide receiver who averages 74 receiving yards per game and has hauled in 11 touchdown catches so far this season. Mobley is one of the county’s leaders in receiving yards and has undoubtedly pushed the Rebels toward a winning season.

“We’ve always been a young team,” Wyrick said, alluding to the Rebels’ struggle to win in prior years. But with a new season comes a new team and a fresh start.

“Last year, we had the talent to do it, but we just didn’t have the will. We didn’t have the will and the heart, honestly,” he said. “But this year, we’re older and we’ve been playing together since third-, fourth-, fifth-grade, so that helps.”

Both Mobley and Wyrick knew coming into the 2013 season that they couldn’t leave Parkwood with another dismal record, so the two athletes have been putting in the work to put numbers on the board.

“Our coaches have pushed us a lot harder than we’ve been pushed before,” Mobley said. “Everyone came in ready to work harder and get better. We all wanted to have a better season than we have in the past.”

So far, the Rebels are certainly having a better season than in prior years, and there’s no question that the seniority of Wyrick and Mobley has helped push Parkwood onto the competitive scene.

Take for example the game against Piedmont (5-2, 0-1) on Sept. 6. Wyrick threw for a career high 284 yards on 17 of 28 passing, with three touchdowns. In the third quarter, Wyrick threw a big 75-yard touchdown pass to Mobley, who finished the game with nine catches for 194 yards. And though the Rebels fell to the Panthers 38-31, the two seniors said the heartbreaking loss proved to be indicative of what they are capable of on the field.

“They came out in the second half and got us on the first couple of drives, and scored. But on offense, we persevered and pushed back,” Wyrick said. “The big touchdown pass to Sam was our biggest play.”

Part of the chemistry on the field between Mobley and Wyrick comes from their dedication to being team leaders for the Rebels – an avenue that has been lacking on the Parkwood team in recent years.

“We really try to be the first ones here, to be here every day, to work harder than everyone, and it comes with being competitive, too,” Wyrick said. “When I was a freshman and sophomore playing, I didn’t have that leadership above me. I didn’t know what it was. So we had to develop into that, and knew coming into this year what we had to do.”

But it isn’t just the Rebels’ effective offense, led by Wyrick and Mobley, that is contributing to the winning record; on defense, linebacker Treven Parker is averaging double-digit tackles per game playing alongside fellow linebacker Cory Rape.

“I have to give a lot of credit to our defense this year,” Wyrick said. “They’ve really stepped up. They’ve had us there where we’ve been able to put it away. We’ve been able to do that because of their ability.”

With one blowout conference win under their belt, the Rebels hope to push through conference play and prove they have what it takes to compete with some of the larger Rocky River teams like Monroe (5-2, 1-0).

And Parkwood has one overarching message: they aren’t the losing team of past years.

“It’s exciting because we know we have an opportunity to succeed,” Coble said. “That was a pretty long stroke last year in that conference, with the kids we had and the numbers we had. But you know, we feel like we can have success and if we meet our potential, I really think we can make the playoffs.”

The Rebels haven’t made it to the playoffs since the 2008 season. Despite the enthusiasm stemming from this year’s potential, the memory of prior seasons is all too close, and Coble is careful not to get ahead of himself.

“We really don’t want to go down that road again,” he said.

With Wyrick and Mobley focused on bringing their A-game to the field each Friday night, it’s unlikely that will happen again.

“I like the position we’re in,” Mobley said of playing on Parkwood’s team. “It makes us work harder to do what we need to do in order to compete with other teams. We have to work a lot harder than they have to. We have a lot more to prove.”

With four games left in conference play, Wyrick and Mobley stand by their coach and hope to lead their fellow Rebels toward the playoffs.

“Are we ready? We better be,” Mobley said. “As hard as we’re working, we’re ready.”

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