After several weeks of preparing for the standard ground-and-pound Big Northern offenses, the Rock Falls football team gets a bit of a break this week.
On tap Friday night is a road trip to Poplar Grove to face the North Boone Vikings, a wide-open spread offense that will give the Rockets’ secondary a chance to shine.
“The teams that we’ve been facing all season have just been power running teams that are just going to try and run it down our throat the entire time,” Izaih James said. “This week, it’s going to be mainly pass, and I think we’re a really good pass defensive team. We’re ready for that and just really ready to show what we can do.”
The change of pace was welcomed by first-year head coach Kevin Parker, who thinks that working on some different things in practice will break the monotony after so many weeks of the same thing.
“I think it’s good to see something different, especially for kids to keep them focused,” Parker said.
“We’re looking at a wide-open offense this week, very pass-heavy, so obviously we have to scheme for that,” Parker said. “We’ve got tho think about it differently and approach it the right way. That’s good for us as a coaching staff to work together and look at things differently. So that’s a very valuable experience for us.”
The Vikings (2-4) are led by quarterback Logan Emanuel and running back Cooper Baden. Wideout Will Doetch is Emanuel’s favorite receiver down the field.
After featuring their power running attack the first few weeks of the season, the Rockets (1-5) have started expanding their own passing game. Noah Schueler (67 carries, 351 yards, 3 TDs) leads the ground game, and quarterback Evan Laws has thrown for 382 yards, with three different receivers – Booker Cross (10 catches, 116 yards), Johnny Davenport (7-75) and Cyd Meiners (5-86) – who have at least five catches.
“We’re still going to hang our hats on running the power football scheme,” Parker said, “but I think a target and a goal is to be throwing the ball a little bit more, and I think that’s going to make you more successful.
“But again, we’re in the first building block of this program, and we want to make sure that we create a very aggressive, very attacking not only defense but offense, especially offensive line, that we’re physically going to get in and push people around.”
The biggest thing Parker has been preaching to his players is to keep a positive attitude – and coincidentally, that was one of the biggest positives he saw from last week’s 14-8 loss to Oregon.
“The one positive thing we take from last week, though it was a loss, is something we’ve been talking a lot about in the program: we got down two touchdowns and we responded positively,” Parker said. “That’s the first time I’ve seen that out of this team this year, so part of that is you have to be in those close games before you learn how to win them. So we were in our first one, and we’ll see if we can continue building on that.”
That positive attitude last Friday night is something the Rockets have learned over the first 6 weeks of the season – and something they might not have had in years past.
“It’s a lot different now,” Booker Cross said. “I think it’s something that we’ve learned the last couple of weeks. Coach has been really pushing us to always keep our heads up and just keep playing hard. I think we can continue that just by keeping a positive attitude and just being in a good mindset.”
The biggest adjustment after the last couple of weeks is to clean up the mistakes on the field. Rock Falls has seen drives stall and defensive stops thwarted with self-inflicted wounds, and the players know that if they can just fix those types of things, they’ll be in much more favorable positions at the end of games.
“Last week we kind of shot ourselves in the foot quite a bit, through turnovers and penalties,” but we know we can fix that,” James said. “Our offense is starting to click a little bit more; we can actually throw the ball and run the ball now – and do either one no matter what formation we’re in – and that makes it tougher for defenses.”
Rock Falls at North Boone
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Poplar Grove
Radio: Sauk Valley Streaming Sports