“Restore the Roar” is what the Whitehaven High School football Tigers are trying to accomplish this season. Last season, the Tigers missed the state playoffs for the first time in over 10 years.
Head coach Rodney Saulsberry has been at the helm that entire time.
“Passion, that is what I expect,” said Saulsberry, who is looking for Whitehaven to improve upon last season’s 5-5 finish. “Guys playing hard and guys playing for one another. That is what we are excited about.
“Our motto for this year is “Restore the Roar” and getting back to the essence of things. Playing football for the right reason and playing for your brothers and community.”
In 2012, the Tigers went undefeated (15-0) and won a state championship. In 2016, they won another state championship. The Whitehaven program has landed players on all levels of football from the top SEC teams to some Division II teams.
Notably, the Whitehaven program sports a family atmosphere. Former players routinely return to support the current players.
Saulsberry doesn’t use the excuse of being in one of the toughest football districts in the state when assessing last season’s team, which lost several games in the final minutes. He accepted the results; no excuses.
What will be different this season?
“Don’t skip steps in the process,” said Saulsberry. “Football is process driven. In building a team, the small things matter. When the small things are out of line, you don’t win close ball games. That was the testament of last season.”
The Tigers head into the season with some turnover on the offensive line. Tracey Jackson and Rickshun Wilson will be the leaders of the big guys up front. Jayden Thomas, a sophomore, will man the quarterback position. His passing options include senior wide receiver Kedarius Jones.
Jones had over 600 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns last season and may be one of the faster receivers in the state. He runs a 10.7 in 100-meters dash.
Terrence (“Speedy) Whitley, a sophomore defensive back, had 4 interceptions last season. He is going to play offense as well this season.
The defensive line will be led by Tavarious Elliott, a junior defensive tackle (5’10” 242 pounds) and Rodney Hunter, a senior defensive tackle (6’3” 260 pounds).
Saulsberry has a message for any opponent that may feel Whitehaven is past its prime.
“We always say respect the ‘haven.’ I love being the underdog. I will take that as a badge of honor. If you don’t have respect for us, we will make it happen on the field.”
Three of the Tigers’ first five games are against district opponents. Two of those are at home (Arlington, Sept. 1 and Houston, Sept. 15).
The Tigers open the season hosting the Central Warriors on Friday (August 18) at Whitehaven Stadium.