ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — The Rockford East E-Rabs have dealt with more than their share of adversity in recent years. Two years ago, they lost a player in a fatal car accident. Last year it was a slew of key injuries. This year their roster has already taken some hits.
Athletes are known for transferring between schools in District 205 in Rockford. This year the E-Rabs have lost several key players who have either moved to another Rockford school or who have left the state altogether. The roster isn’t as deep as it appeared it would be back in the spring.
“We’re a little thin, but we’re young, and we’re going to play the young guys and see what happens,” said head coach Gary Griffin.
Fortunately for the E-Rabs running back Javius Catlin is back. He’s been one of the most elusive players in the NIC-10 going back to his freshman season. Now, it’s hard to believe he’s a senior.
“My dad always told me high school is going to fly right past,” said Catlin. “I never believed him until like this summer really. That’s when it really started to hit, like, I’m really going to be a senior.”
Catlin would love to go out with a bang in his senior season.
“It would mean everything for me if we go out with a bang, especially my senior year send it off to college. I would love to go out there and at least just make the playoffs.”
“I just want him to enjoy himself. That’s the thing,” said Grififn. “You know when you’re not winning a lot or making the playoffs it seems like guys don’t really enjoy it. They just kind of do it.”
If Catlin has a big year, he could become the NIC-10’s all-time leading rusher. He’ll need help up front though on the line. That’s where the E-Rabs lost some transfers, but they do return Eddie Esgerra.
Catlin also lost his backfield mate Deterrace Dotson. He’s no longer with the E-Rabs, but they do have a replacement running back in junior Tyeshaun Whittie who’s a lot like Dotson.
“He’s like a little version of Deterrace,” said Catlin.. “He does verything like him. He’s just a little version. He’s just smaller.”
“He’s one of the most well-rounded football kids we have,” said Griffin. “He’s just very, very small, but he’s talented as heck, and I think he’s going to surprise some people.”
Junior Twaine Phillips will be the E-Rabs’ quarterback primarily handing the ball of to Whittie and Catlin.
The defense will start with wrestling standout Lee Smith on the line. Senior safety Camajay Casson has grown a couple inches and could be an all-conference type player. Watch for DeMarius Crayton at outside linebacker. Then there’s senior Mekhi Byrd at middle linebacker.
“I feel like we could do some good things this year,” said Byrd. “It just really depends how hard we work in these next couple of weeks, and what kind of energy we bring.”
There have been two key additions to the E-Rabs on the coaching staff. Former Guilford head coach Mel Gilfillan and former Boylan assistant Anthony Stone are on board. They’re welcome additions for Griffin.
“Any time you can have some experience is great. Guys that have been around, and they’ve seen city football. So, it’s good to have guys that understand that.”