After an active summer, Wewa awaits Coach Gene’s return

After 29 years of coaching football, Bobby Johns knows how important summer workouts can be to having a successful season.

Johns and his assistant coaches supervised nearly 50 Gator players as they worked in the weight room. Johns, starting his fifth year as head coach at Wewahitchka, said that this year’s crop of players was “the most we’ve ever had.”

Off-season workouts “have been good, (and) as of today (July 19) I have 39 who haven’t missed a day” all summer. Johns was to reward those with perfect attendance with an outing to Shipwreck Island  last Thursday.  

“During the summer, we just try to maintain” the players’ strength in addition to holding conditioning drills. Monday afternoon would see the players return for outside workouts, including 10 100-yard runs as Johns and his staff push the young men to “Finish the Ride,” this year’s team slogan.

Johns wears many hats as head coach. He also serves as both the offensive and defensive coordinators.

Tyler Worley, the associate head coach, is also the co-defensive coordinator.

Jerry Gaskins is responsible for defensive ends and receivers, while Jay Rushing and Chaz Johns work with the offensive and defensive lines.

Jarrett Segers, besides working with the offensive and defensive lines, is the co-defensive coordinator.

In addition to having varsity game night duties, three other coaches work with the JV (junior varsity) team: David Peavy is the head JV coach and offensive coordinator; Cameron Lister is responsible for the offensive and defensive lines; and Stuart Vines is the JV defensive coordinator.

Last, and certainly not least, is the legendary Coach Gene Rollins, who has been with Coach Johns since their time at Blountstown in 2003, and who is presently recovering from his recent heart transplant in Gainesville.

Rollins, affectionately called Coach Gene, was having his third biopsy on Monday, “which is how (the doctors) determine if his body” is accepting the new heart. Although the first two biopsies were good, they did not count toward his ultimate release.

Out of the hospital, Rollins and his wife “have an RV parked at the campground” in Gainesville, Johns said. “He has to have four clear biopsies before they will send him home,” at the rate of one a week.

If all goes well, Coach Gene, the team’s assistant head coach, stands “a good chance to be here for our kick-off classic on August 20,” against Brookwood Academy out of Thomasville, Georgia, said Johns.

Asked about reducing Rollins’ activities upon his return, Johns said “You can’t minimize Coach Gene. He’s going to do whatever he wants to do, (but) he understands the gift that he has been given, and he’s not going to do anything to jeopardize that.”

Johns said that he had threatened to “put him in the press box” upon his return, which Coach Gene pointedly declined. “He’s a 56-year-old man, (and) if he wants to be on the sidelines, that’s up to him.”

There will be certain limitations on Rollins, including wearing a mask and wearing gloves when doing the team’s laundry. “We’ll just be glad to have him back doing the things he likes to do,” said Johns said.

With the first official practice day of August 2 looming, Johns acknowledged that this season was full of formidable opponents, including Rutherford, Freeport, Vernon, an improved Liberty County, and “the toughest team on the schedule,” Port St. Joe.

Besides having the largest number of players since he came to Wewa, Johns is counting on a group of 10 seniors to help duplicate or improve on last year’s 6-4 record.

Nine of those seniors are Tremaine Booker, Briceson Davis, Braxton Durden, Landon Hysmith, Matthew Nunnery, Sam Parker, Treston Smith, Austin Williams, and Caden Wooten.

Perhaps the most talented of this year’s senior players is Alex Williams (no relation to Austin). Alex “is a good football player, an exceptional athlete, a great leader,” said Johns, “but more than anything else he (has) really, really high character.”

“He’s the kind of guy you could build a program around,” he said. Besides occupying the quarterback position, “he plays strong safety, our premier position on defense.”

Alex Williams “is a mixture of a great character kid, a good athlete, a good football player, a good leader; he’s the whole package,” Johns said. “He’s committed to Vanderbilt, but has gotten offers from Ole Miss and a few others.” Wherever Williams goes, Johns sees him being either a strong safety or outside linebacker.

Described as a “decent thrower,” Williams is primarily a threat with his legs as he rushed for more than 1,700 yards last season. “We don’t throw a lot. If I could go a whole season and never throw it, that’s what I would do,” said Johns.

Meanwhile, as Coach Gene and his wife are both in Gainesville awaiting the green light to return home, the bills accumulate. Anyone who wishes to help the Rollins family during this time can do so by mailing or taking a donation to Wewahitchka High School, noting that it is for the Coach Gene recovery fund.

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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