Analysis | Friday Night Drive

Rock Falls focused on consistency, improvement vs. Genoa-Kingston

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

Another week, another tough opponent for the Rock Falls Rockets.

Genoa-Kingston comes to Hinders Field on Friday night, the fourth straight team with a .500 record or better on the Rockets’ schedule; they play a fifth one, Byron, on the road in Week 6.

As the Rockets try to build their program, it’s a tough slate like this one that gives them little margin for error.

“I would say they’re pretty good. We’ve just got to run everything to perfection, really just try our hardest out there,” junior wide receiver/defensive back Michael Flowers said. “We have to do everything we need to do, play our best.”

The talent and physicality of the Cogs (3-1) won’t be anything new for Rock Falls, and it’s no real mystery what they’re going to try to do. The challenge, as it is every week in the rough-and-tumble Big Northern Conference, is for the Rockets to stop it.

“They’re going to play hard, they’re going to be in the right place at all times. They’re very disciplined; you’re not going to see penalties,” Rock Falls coach Kevin Parker said about G-K. “We’re going to have to play a perfect game to hang with these guys. Nothing different than we’ve seen in the past, because they don’t have to change things.”

He expects a heavy dose of run from the Cogs, with the timely pass thrown in for good measure, just to keep the defense off-balance.

If Rock Falls can find a way to get a few stops, then maybe they can make G-K change their game plan and force the Cogs to go to the air and do something they’re not as comfortable with.

“They will throw it, but it will be the times that you’re not expecting it. Great teams that have been around for a long time understand how to do that,” Parker said. “It’ll be high-percentage passing, and I don’t see them mixing things up too much unless they have to; we would have to force them to do that. Hopefully we can do that.”

While the miscues may be few and far between for the Cogs, the Rockets will do their best to operate their offense efficiently, and also try to make the most of any extra chances G-K might give them with turnovers or punts or missed tackles.

“The biggest thing would just to be to key off the mistakes they make. We just have to push our blocks and keep moving the ball down the field, take advantage when they give us opportunities to make plays,” senior running back/linebacker Ryan McCord said. “We just have to play the run first, and play hard. We’ve got to hit hard, smack them right in the mouth, and not let them push us around.”

Rock Falls’  Jason McCord (right) helps pull down Stillman Valley’s Porter Needs Friday, Sept. 2, 2022.

Parker said that as always with his squad, the focus is inward instead of just on the opponent. He knows that the Rockets have to find their identity and learn who they are before worrying too much about who’s across the field on the other sideline.

“We saw some improvement last week with running the football. Our issue is just being consistent, and that’s exactly what we’re focused on. We’re not as worried about them as much as we have to worry about ourselves,” Parker said. “We have to do our jobs first, and that’s what we’ve been struggling with, the consistency of doing what we’re supposed to do all the time out on the field. Once we can do that, control the things that we can control, then we can take that next step.”

That also comes from the Rockets’ continued growth together as a team. In his fourth year in the program, McCord has seen one of the key elements to a team’s cohesiveness – trust – grow more and more each year, each week, each game.

“Trust is big. We are starting to trust each other a lot more, we’re starting to trust the plays a lot more,” McCord said. “We’re getting into a good team mentality, and trusting that everybody is going to do their jobs and do everything they can to help the team.”

Flowers agrees that the Rockets are making strides in several of the intangibles necessary to build a program and form a tight-knit team. One of them is doing the right thing on the field, whether it be in practice or under the lights on Friday nights.

“I think we’re more disciplined now, and our technique is better,” Flowers said. “We’re going to carry out our blocks better, just get done what we need to.”

He also said that the biggest key this week – and every week – is for players to not take it all on themselves, but just take care of their responsibilities and rely on their teammates to do the same.

“That trust is growing on and off, but it’s getting better over time,” Flowers said. “You’ve just got to do your own job. That’s the most you can do, just try and help the team, and let your teammates do it too.”