Analysis | Friday Night Drive

Rock Falls seeking first win, hoping to get season back on track as it hosts Winnebago

The Rock Falls Rockets come off the field after stopping an extra point attempt Friday, Sept. 2, 2022 against Stillman Valley.

ROCK FALLS – When the Rock Falls Rockets and Winnebago Indians meet Friday night at Hinders Field, it will be a battle for the first win of the season, as both teams try to push themselves back into the Big Northern Conference race and playoff contention.

Winnebago comes in to the week off a 42-7 loss to Byron, while Rock Falls is fresh off a 39-7 loss to Stillman Valley. After slow starts to the season, both teams will look to change the narrative this week.

Last year when the BNC teams clashed in Week 3, the Indians cruised to a 45-8 victory.

With the way Winnebago has attacked his teams in the past, Rock Falls coach Kevin Parker knows his players will need to be ready for anything this week.

“Again, tradition of a very good football team. They’re right up there, maybe a half-step behind some of the better teams in the conference, but they work hard, they’ve got a great staff,” Parker said. “Had a lot of athletic, big, strong kids last year, and they have some more back this year. We expect them to want to run the football against us, establish that and then things come off of that. Over the past few years, they’ve been able to throw the football as well as run the football against us, so we’ve gotta prepare for anything, and we’re looking forward to a good match this Friday.”

Senior running back/linebacker Ryan McCord likes the mental toughness his team has displayed in the first two weeks of the season, but knows there’s still some work to be done in the team chemistry department.

“We’re not giving up, I’ve learned that. That’s the biggest thing, we haven’t given up yet,” he said. “We’re still trying to push hard, and we’re going for a win, trying to get some wins this year. We’re just not willing to give up.

“I think everyone’s starting to mesh more. It’s still just trying to get everything down and working.”

Rock Falls’ Austin Castaneda runs the ball after the second half kick-off Friday, Sept. 2, 2022 against Stillman Valley.

Parker said he noticed improvement in the offensive tackle play last week, and believes if that trend continues, it will bode very well for his team going forward.

“Starting with our offensive tackles, that’s what our offense really has to have clicking, and our tackles Hunter Gale and Jacob Hosler did step up and have a better game, but there’s still room to grow,” Parker said. “They’re both sophomores and they showed some improvement, but the sky’s the limit for those guys and for our offense if we have those guys step up.”

Junior running back/defensive back Kohle Bradley noted some other improvements in practices and in last week’s game.

“I would say, for sure, our reads on offense. Our offense got a lot better within the past two games,” Bradley said. “Wide receivers have been running their routes. Running backs, especially, how we’re running the ball. Linemen, too. We’re getting better, we’re more sound as a whole. Defense has always been pretty good. Just scrapping up with those few loose ends on defense.”

To beat Winnebago this week, Rock Falls knows it will likely need a stronger first-half effort than it put forth last week.

“We did play better in situations compared to the week before with our loss to [Rockford] Christian, in certain positions that were very lacking the week before,” Parker said. “So we were happy with some of our efforts, but we still need to jell as a team and play the entire game.

“We’ve gotta go out and play disciplined football, do the things we gotta do – especially staying on blocks, not losing blocks too early. And just do those little things that the teams in front of us did a lot better than us the first two weeks.”

“I’d say we just gotta come at them full throttle,” Bradley said. “The past game at Stillman, we didn’t really come in because it was Stillman, weren’t really trying that hard, but in that second half, we picked it up. We play this game exactly like we did second half [at Stillman], we’re definitely going to win.”

Kickoff for Rock Falls vs. Winnebago is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday.