Before fourth-down plays, Isaiah Rowe drops into his stance and visualizes himself blocking punts with a blend of technique, speed, hustle and strength.
Now it won’t just be a confident view of his potential, but also a reminder of something he’s already done.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound West Hall senior blocked two punts in a 38-0 rout of county rival North Hall last Friday. The first block was a shot of adrenaline that gave him the confidence to do it again.
“On the first one, I was surprised,” Rowe said. “And then I knew on the second one I had to get another one.”
Rowe and West Hall (3-0) will look to complete their unbeaten run through non-region play when they visit North Oconee at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Bogart.
The Spartans’ tight end and outside linebacker said a lineman didn’t come off the ball right and Rowe ran right past him to get his hands on the North Hall kicks. One of his blocks led to a 46-yard field goal by Bradley Hodgson for a 10-0 halftime lead.
Third-year West Hall coach Tony Lotti has been expecting big things from his kicking game since the start of the season. It just turns out that also involves keeping other teams from getting their kicks in the air sometimes, too.
“The good thing was he executed the game plan,” Lotti said. “And he was in position to make a couple plays for us. And he made it.”
Rowe’s presence on the football field is a welcome sight for player and coach. He sat out his junior season because of grades but worked hard to pull up his marks in the classroom.
“It made me mad because I couldn’t play last year,” Rowe said. “But this year I really stepped up and became a better student-athlete.”
Lotti was more than happy to have him back in the blue and white.
“We’re thrilled to death to have him back out there,” Lotti said. “He’s a big kid. He’s athletic.”
During Lotti’s first year as head coach at West Hall, Rowe was a sophomore running back in 2012. But with standouts like Tyquan Statham and Kwon Williams toting the ball this fall, Rowe has found his niche largely as a blocking tight end and linebacker.
“He’s embraced that role and he’s making plays, whether it’s on special teams or on the offensive side as a blocker primarily,” Lotti said. “He’s really doing what we need him to do to help the team win. And it’s that type of unselfishness that all the kids are doing, and that’s why we’re having some success early.”
The 6:30 a.m. summer workouts are paying off for Rowe and his teammates, making them bigger and stronger as they seek to build on a 6-5 campaign from 2013. Last season marked their first playoff appearance since 2002, as they narrowly lost their postseason opener to Cartersville.
“This year we’re trying to do bigger things, bigger goals,” Rowe said.
He’s proud to be part of a defense that has only allowed one of its three opponents to total more than 100 yards of offense in a trio of shutouts. The Spartans have outscored Johnson, Chestatee and North Hall by a combined 97-0 in the program’s first 3-0 start since 2008. It’s the first time in school history West Hall has won three straight shutouts, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Association.
“Our defense is nasty,” Rowe said.
Lotti, meanwhile, was glad to see Rowe’s hard work pay off last Friday and said it reinforces what the West Hall coaches have been preaching to their players.
“I’m happy for him because I feel like it’s a great life lesson that he’s learning, that all the kids are learning about giving of yourself for somebody else,” Lotti said. “And I think that’s just an important lesson, and they’re seeing that when we do that, we’re reaping the benefits of that on the field.”