Rockets look for stability in Kleine's first season
David Kleine is Roxboro Person’s eighth head football coach in 12 years, and that seemingly constant upheaval hasn’t been healthy for the program.
The Rockets again are struggling to establish a winner, but this time they’ve got a man at the helm who is completely familiar with the problems as well as the potential of a program representing the lone football-playing public high school in the county.
Kleine was promoted from within when Doug Robertson resigned after just one season — a 3-8 debut and fifth-place finish in the PAC-6 4-A. Kleine has been with the program through seven previous coaches and a dozen seasons.
And he quickly can list the positives Person High offers any coach.
“There are four things we can really hang our hats on,” Kleine said.
No. 1, it doesn’t have to split players with any other school in the county.
“That’s a real selling point for us,” Kleine said.
And for Nos. 2, 3 and 4, Kleine said: “We have decent facilities, a good fan base and an excellent weight room. There are great advantages to being here.”
This year’s team might have a shot at a state playoff berth. The PAC-6, which lost perennial playoff contender Southern to 3-A reclassification, also lost one of its four playoff slots.
Moving from a seven- to a six-team league gives the PAC-6 only three playoff berths, but conference coaches say that only three-time consecutive champion Hillside is a lock for one of those.
Kleine, like others, believes that East Chapel Hill is a strong contender to win the second berth. The third will be contested among Person, Jordan, Riverside and Northern — and each has serious questions to answer on the field.
“Making the playoffs is a reasonable goal for us — if we stay healthy,” Kleine said.
He might have added another qualifier — if the Rockets can develop solid line play on both sides of the ball.
Everyone is gone from the 2012 offensive line, including three-year regular tackle Jeff Walker — now a preferred walk-on at Charlotte.
“We’re starting from scratch,” Kleine said of his line concerns. “And we’re pretty small by Person standards.”
He will be looking at several candidates at each line position.
At tackle, the return of Marcus Taylor (6-2, 255) after missing all of last season with a knee injury, offers some strength to a group that includes Rommonie Dodson (6-2, 215) and Brandon Stephens (6-1, 280).
At guard, Rayshawn Long (5-9, 215), Devon Parker (5-10, 235) and D’Angelo Carrington (5-10, 210) will battle for playing time.
And at center, leading candidates are Parker and Matt Allen (5-10, 225).
Kleine does have returning starters in the backfield. Trevon Trapp is back at quarterback after picking up the starting job midway through 2012, and senior running back Marquis Torain (6-2, 190) earned honorable mention All-PAC-6 a year ago.
Two-way player Torain and fellow senior LeRon Cash (6-3, 200) both were All-PAC-6 on defense last year — Torain at safety and Cash at defensive end. Cash will double up as perhaps the team’s top receiving threat, now that all-conference star Joseph Downey has moved on.
“Torain and Cash aren’t coming off the field,” Kleine said, laughing.
Torain gives the Rockets a receiving threat out of the backfield and will be joined by Cash, newcomer Corey Young (5-9, 165), returnee A.J. Cash (6-1, 170) and all-conference kicker Jacob Oakley (5-10, 160) as other targets in the spread offense.
“Defensively, we’re going to be young across the board,” Kleine said. “Our strengths will be our safety play and the consistency of our linebackers. Up front is an area of concern.”
All three offensive guards will be used at defensive tackle.
“They’ll be plenty tired,” Kleine said, laughing, “but we need them.”
Cash will be at one end slot in the 4-3 scheme when he’s not shifted to linebacker. Also at end will be James Robinson (6-1, 200), Caleb Garrett (6-0, 200) and Franky Allen (6-0, 180).
At linebacker, Tyrrell Peterson (6-1, 210) and Taymon Smith (5-10, 185) will be in the spotlight along with Cash and safety Torain when he moves up from safety.
Joining Torain at safety will be Corey Young. Getting snaps at the corners will be Tapp, A.J. Cash, Oakley, Francisco Jimenez, Tayshawn Outlaw and Shaquille Oliver.
Kleine knows the road ahead will be a rough one. But first and foremost among his program’s goals is stability.
“In our first year, we need to create an environment that’s conducive to winning,” Kleine said.