Rock Falls gets extra day to prepare for Lutheran

The typical bangs and bruises can build up after three weeks of a high school season, so getting even an extra day to allow those to heal before you take the field for your next game can be a big help.

That’s the situation Rock Falls finds itself in, where for one Friday the pads stay firmly tucked away in the lockers because their game with Rockford Lutheran will be at noon Saturday at Hinders Field.

“The big thing for us was to help heal up injuries,” Rock Falls coach Kevin Parker said. “Guys that are beat up can take it a little slower into the week. It gives you a little more time to stick some things in, some special teams in where you didn’t have to force them in.”

Saturday games are nothing new to the current crop of Rockets, with plenty of Saturday afternoon kickoffs becoming a normal occurrence in a spring season when everything was abnormal.

“With us, we played Saturdays back during COVID in March,” Rock Falls offensive tackle Lyden King said. “So I feel like we just have to have that same mentality and it will be fun.”

Still, with kickoff 17 hours later than normal, and in the afternoon rather than in the evening, there is some mental preparation needed.

“Football players and coaches are creatures of habit,” Parker said. “Once you change one little thing, you don’t know what’s going to happen, so trying to keep the kids’ focus is the main thing. You have to wait a little longer. You can’t be geared up too soon or else you wear yourself out. That’s a challenge for all coaches that have to do that on a Saturday.”

Following their 50-0 Week 1 win over Rockford Christian, the Rockets have lost a pair of games, allowing at one point 87 straight points before a late Booker Cross kick return in Week 3 against Winnebago.

While the Rockets offense was humming in Week 1, things have slowed since then. The win over Rockford Christian saw the Rockets get 186 rushing yards out of Cross and score on seven of their nine drives; the non-scoring drives were a kneel-down to end the first half and a turnover on downs deep in Royal Lions territory.

Against Winnebago, Rock Falls totaled 104 yards of offense and averaged 2.8 yards per carry.

“We want to build on not only better discipline, but also just learning the game of football,” King said. “We want to build on not only what we do in practice, but how we treat each other during games and how we feel during games.”

Lutheran comes in 0-3, having lost 35-0 to North Boone and 35-6 to Genoa-Kingston before a 47-19 setback to Byron Week 3.

“They have some good personnel,” Parker said. “They have a wideout who’s 6-4, 6-5, so you’re always nervous about something like that. You have a quarterback that’s very quick, can get the ball out. They’ve got some size on the line, so just match their physicality, like I say every single week, something we have to continue to try to do if we’re going to pull out a win.”

Lutheran has allowed 117 points so far this season, second-most in the Big Northern, with only Rockford Christian allowing more points. Byron, Genoa-Kingston and North Boone all had their biggest offensive days of the season so far when facing the Crusaders.

But Lutheran does come into the fall following a spring season in which defense was a high point. The Crusaders’ lone loss was a 15-6 setback to Stillman Valley, at a time when Lutheran had just come out of a 14-day quarantine, and the Crusaders beat Dixon 7-2 in monsoon-like conditions, with Dixon’s lone points coming off a deliberately-taken safety in the fourth quarter. Lutheran also beat Byron 6-0.

“We see them flowing real well, guys flowing to the ball, chasing people down, staying after it,” Parker said. “That intensity is up there, and I think they play hungry.”