By Jordan Burton (for OzarksSportsZone.com)
Jon Franks is entering his seventh season at Rolla where he has quietly turned the program into one of the top tier schools in the Ozark Conference with winning seasons in four of the last five years with a district championship in 2017.
The Bulldogs have done this in various ways, at first it was a big offense while more recently it was a miserly defense.
That will continue to be the case with Rolla turning over 11 starters from last year’s 7-4 squad, eight of whom are on the defensive side of the ball.
“We definitely felt our defense played a huge role in the season,” Franks said. “Coach Sneed has a multiple defense that has the ability to adapt to OC’s attacking football schedule, which is different week to week.”
Brock Horton-Owens (6-1, 315) looks to lead the defense from the heart of the trenches. Horton-Owens finished his junior season with 40 tackles and 10 tackles for loss to go along with 12 QB rushes.
“Brock has a ton of good footballing qualities; size, strength, speed, good hands, good motor skills and football knowledge,” Franks said. “Brock can handle an initial surge and handle double teams to keep linebackers free. He can also play from behind. He has a good passing rush for a big man.
Senior All-OCs Gabe Sutton (5-10, 220) and Hayden Crider (6-0, 215) also return to the defensive line. Broc Lyle — who was All-Ozark Conference as a defensive back and running back — is also back in the mix.
Rolla will have one of the most talented offensive lines in the Ozarks with Lyle covering mistakes at fullback while seeing a bigger role on offense by moving to quarterback.
“Hayden and Gabe are great football players; they both have the ability to totally take control of a match,” Franks said. “As a team, we think this could be one if not the best defensive line we’ve had so far.
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“Broc is a very dynamic, explosive athlete who can change a game quickly,” Franks said. “He played quarterback in first year and now he will return to that role to fill the void.”
Aaron Cook gives the Bulldogs a veteran cornerback with a high IQ. Junior Brett Montgomery and sophomore Trustin Richards will be looking to make an impact with their speed at linebacker.
Franks is also excited about the development of juniors Robert Smith and Demarii Williams on the offensive line. Sophomore Nash Crouch will see time tight end.
Junior Steve Harris is a candidate to have a breakout season after seeing his second campaign cut short by injuries.
Last year, two of Rolla’s four losses came via possession against Glendale. The other two came on the state-listed Kickapoo and West Plains Class 6 road. Rolla beat Bolivar on the road and upset ranked Lebanon and Camdenton in consecutive weeks.
This program is on the rise and the next step is to push for a conference championship.
“To compete for an OC title, we’ll need to stay healthy and quickly become a cohesive unit on offense,” Franks said.
Rolla will host Waynesville, Union and Capital City in a jamboree on August 19 before hosting Camdenton on August 26 to open the 2022 regular season.