ROCK FALLS – After a shutout loss to begin the season, Rock Falls sought to even its record up at home against Stillman Valley.
That’s the same Cardinals team that made a statement victory in the opening week against Class 3A top-ranked Byron. The winning ways continued for the Cardinals on Friday night with a 39-7 win over Rock Falls at Hinders Field.
The signature Cardinals running game proved too tough for the Rockets to handle in the first half, putting up 264 yards of total offense to the Rockets’ 68 – 56 of which came on three passing plays; the Cardinal defense bottled up the Rockets’ running game for just 12 yards.
Rockets coach Kevin Parker said his team took away a lot of things to work on in this game, and that his kids are “excited to play a game next week.”
“We got a lot of young kids that work pretty hard, and we’re looking for our identity,” Parker said. “When you’re searching for those things and you’re playing Stillman Valley, that has all of their ducks in a row, it’s going to be a tough thing. We saw some things in the end, and even some things in the first half that we can build on. As soon as they find their little niche, they’re going to take off. We’re going to keep working hard and keep looking for those little victories.”
The Cardinals’ backfield trio of Jory Spain, Owen Zitkus and Porter Needs combined for 209 of their team’s first-half yardage, and only once were stopped in the backfield. Spain put the Cardinals on the scoreboard first with a 3-yard run with 8:29 to go in the first quarter, and Needs followed with a 29-yard TD carry just 35 seconds into the second quarter for a 14-0 lead.
Spain added a second TD with 24 seconds left in the first half, and led his team with 84 yards on 16 carries for the game.
“Our O-line had a lot of great movement up front, and our defense – our star-studded defense – didn’t let up or allow any points until the very end,” Spain said. “Overall, we played a great game.”
Cardinals quarterback Braden Engel added a score of his own with 7:42 remaining in the third quarter, running around right end on a nicely executed fake with just one man on him along the way; that run put the Cardinals up 33-0 and brought out the Cardinals’ second-string for the remainder of the game.
Rock Falls put up its first points of the season with 1:25 to go in the game, on a 2-yard scamper from Kohle Bradley, who the Rockets turned to for much of their offense on the ground. But given the short amount of time remaining, the touchdown may not have happened if the Cardinals had converted a two-point run on KJ Chavers’ 5-yard TD run with 9:12 left in the game; Chavers’ score fell one point short of a running clock situation.
Bradley set up his score with a 20-yard run for first-and-goal from the Cardinals’ 10, and he made it into the end zone on fourth down.
“I think we came into the game thinking that, it’s Stillman Valley – a big, good team, and very technical – and had our heads down a little bit [early], but started picking it up in the second half and start working,” Bradley said. “It just took a lot of heart. We didn’t really have the heart early, but we sure did coming out.”
The Rockets had an earlier chance to score midway through the third quarter inside the Cardinals’ red zone, but an Easton Canales pass was intercepted by the Cardinals’ Keaton Rauman in the end zone.