• 34°

Rebul ready to rejoin division

[6/30/04]Rebul Academy is ready to make its presence known again.

After two years of drifting as an independent team with dwindling numbers, the Raiders have made their return and will join District 4-A as part of the 2004-05 realignment.

The small, Learned school will usher in this new era with a new head coach as well. Brad Armstrong, who worked as an assistant under Scotty Roberts last season, will take over the football program following Roberts’ departure.

For Armstrong, 28, it’s a chance to prove himself in his first head-coaching job. He said his experience as an assistant last season will help tremendously.

“It’s one of those things that you don’t know you’re ready for until you get in there and do it,” said Armstrong, who was a punter and kicker at Southern Miss from 1994-96. “But I know these kids. I know what I’ve got to work with.”

Rebul headmaster David Glasgow said promoting Armstrong was a no-brainer.

“Brad is a young man and doesn’t have an awful lot of experience, but he’s a young man that really wants to,” Glasgow said. “He just deserved a chance, and I think he’ll do us an excellent job.”

Two seasons ago, head coach Ben Ashley was forced to withdraw from the division when not enough players turned out for the team. Eventually, Rebul was able to field a team, but it was too late.

The Raiders had to wipe their schedule clean and fill it with make-up games for a shortened 2002 season. They would have applied for reentry last year, but Mississippi Private School Association rules state that schools can only rejoin divisions when the league realigns, which occurs every two years.

“They’ve known that we wanted to be back in the district for some time,” said Armstrong, who was the team’s offensive coordinator and special teams coach last season. “It was just a process of waiting until they got to that point of doing the redistricting to get us back in.”

Now, the Raiders will mix it up with the likes of CM&I, Porters Chapel, Sharkey-Issaquena, Veritas and Tri-County as members of District 4-A.

“We’re going to get to play for the conference championship,” Glasgow said. “Whether we’ll be there or not, we don’t know. But we know we’re going to have an opportunity to play for it.”

With only 15 players on last year’s team including freshmen Rebul finished 7-3. Armstrong expects his familiarity with the players from last season will help the transition this year.

“They know me, I know them,” he said. “They know what to expect and they know that they’re going to have to work hard. We have a mutual understanding.”

Armstrong hasn’t had a chance to work with his players yet. Rebul was forced to cancel its spring practice session because too many players were on the baseball team and couldn’t come out for football.

Armstrong expects he will have between 15 and 20 players.

That means plenty of “iron men,” who will play offense, defense and special teams for virtually every play of every game.

“Not only can I not bring them off the field and rest them when it comes time for defense, but I have to put them in the best positions where they have to run the most on defense and wear themselves out on both sides of the ball,” Armstrong said. “I probably have some of the most well-conditioned athletes in the state just because of the way that we have to play.”

This year’s graduating class had four students, two of whom played football. The upcoming junior class had only one player on last year’s roster.

Having those two lean classes so close to each other is what has caused such a low turnout in recent years, Glasgow said.

Both Armstrong and Glasgow praised the strong group of young players progressing through the junior high ranks. Glasgow expects Rebul football to continue its rise.

“We can see where our program is coming up in numbers now,” he said. “Seventh, eighth and ninth grade all those that are coming up are going to be good classes. We’re looking at better things now participation-wise.”