Senior running back Jalen Rouse has been a force all season, setting school rushing records while leading the Richmond Hill Wildcats deep into the high school football playoffs.
As the team prepares for the third round of the AAAAAA playoffs Friday when they host Valdosta, Rouse achieved statewide recognition for his play, having been named the Georgia High School Football Statewide Player of the Week by Georgia High School Daily.
Rouse was surrounded by teammates, coaches, and his parents who erupted in applause Tuesday afternoon when a representative from Georgia High School Daily presented him with the award. Rouse rushed for 210 yards and scored five touchdowns in the Wildcat’s 48-34 win last week against Lanier.
This was the first time a Richmond Hill player has earned this award, sponsored by Sports Turf.
“I’m excited… happy… appreciative,” Rouse said after receiving the plaque. “It’s an honor to get this.”
At 8-3 on the season, the Wildcats have a state title within reach, and Rouse is a big reason why. His 2,120 all-purpose yards in 11 games is impressive. He has rushed this season for 1,670 yards (7.8 yards per carry), which is a school record, and among the highest statewide in 6-A. His 24 touchdowns (23 rushing) is also among the state’s leaders.
Ted Langford, from Georgia High School Daily, said Rouse’s name kept coming up among athletes who fared well last week on the football field. “This was done during the playoffs,” Langford noted. “Jalen had one of his best games.” The award is based on reviewing game film and speaking to coaches. Rouse was the 12th recipient of the award, given out among more than 400 eligible schools throughout the state.
Wildcat coach Matt LeZotte made the announcement to the entire football team that assembled inside the school while taking a break from practice. “This is a big deal,” LeZotte said, of the award. “These are the best teams (in the state) playing right now.” He complimented both Rouse and his entire squad for playing a selfless style of football.
Perhaps most proud were Rouse’s parents, Cedric and Charisse, who were beaming with smiles. The couple have lived in Richmond Hill since 1999, and are also parents of a 14-year-old daughter, Sanaa.
“To see Jalen develop and mature is something any parent would hope for,” Cedric said. “He’s so humble,” added Charisse. “He may not realize how important this is.”
Rouse said even before his breakout performances in the playoffs, he has been recruited by some colleges, most notably Cornell University and Charleston Southern. He said he definitely wants to play football and expects that more colleges will come calling as word gets out about both his play on the field and in the classroom.
And what will be the deciding factor in accepting an offer? “If the school is academically good for me,” he said. Eying possibly a communications major, Rouse added, “Not everyone makes it to the pros.”
In the meantime, Rouse and his teammates look forward to this week’s game at Wildcat field, and he said he plans to play basketball once the season ends.
This story and photo is a reprint from the Bryan County News and Mark Swendra, Staff Writer