The turnaround is complete.
Now it’s all about ramping up already high expectations even another notch for Central High School football coach Bryson Rosser.
In his fifth season at Central, the 34-year-old Rosser is one of the state’s rising young coaching stars.
In 2014 the former Tennessee State quarterback took over a tradition-rich program that was on life support.
The previous four seasons before Rosser was named coach, Central was a combined 16-25 with just one playoff appearance – a 33-7 first-round loss to Powell in 2012.
That just didn’t cut it at Central, whose storied history includes legendary players like Todd Helton, Reggie Cobb and Tim Irwin.
Rosser has since guided the Bobcats to a 34-18 record. He’s 8-4 in the playoffs with four consecutive postseason appearances.
In 2016 he led Central to the state Class 4A title game where the Bobcats (12-3) fell to Memphis East.
Last season, Central overcame a 1-3 start and an avalanche of adversity that included losing its top two quarterbacks to injuries.
The Bobcats rebounded by winning their first three playoff games – all on the road – before being eliminated by eventual 5A champion Catholic.
The immediate and long-term outlook looks brighter than it has in years at Central.
“We’ve made tremendous strides,” said Rosser.
“I think that now, people think that we’re a program on the lookout for. Expectations are a lot higher. That tells of the work ethic of the kids and the coaches.
“Overall now, it’s a program where people say we’re going to have discipline and play hard for all four quarters – and you’re always going to have to watch out for them in November in playoff time. We’ve been building something special for the last couple of years.”
And he plans on seeing it through.
After the success of the Bobcats the last two years, Rosser’s name was linked to high-profile coaching vacancies in the area following the 2017 season.
He said much of the speculation was wrong.
“There were more rumors and more of what people heard than what actually was communicated to me,” Rosser explained. “There wasn’t too much action going on with me.”
Rosser said Central is a destination job for him, not a stepping stone.
“I’ve never been more excited about the present and the future,” he said.
“We’re building something that’s special on top of something that has already been special, which has kind of re-ignited the fire.”
Central’s quarterback situation last season was emblematic of how far the program has come under Rosser.
Sophomore starter Dakota Fawver (knee) was injured in the second week of the season against Fulton and lost for the year.
Sophomore Eli Sharp stepped in and was promptly lost to an injury the next week against Sevier County, thrusting freshman Luke Ferguson into the starting quarterback slot.
Despite the injuries, Central managed to atone for regular-season losses to both Sevier County and South-Doyle in the playoffs on its way to its semifinal appearance.
“I was extremely satisfied and excited about the kids rallying together,” said Rosser.
“They’ve kind of bonded to the program overall. To see the foundation and the core of the program grow has been special.”
With seven starters back on defense and six on offense, Rosser is planning on another long postseason and perhaps a little better luck with injuries in 2018.
“These guys went through a lot last year and they were still able to be successful,” he said.
“I’m hoping the cards align in our favor and that as we make plays we can stay healthy and hopefully make another deep run in the playoffs. It’s definitely not guaranteed, but it’s an expectation we have.”