For Rochester, defense was Young man’s game against Winamac
Warrior coach Burgess names Gearhart starting QB
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
WINAMAC — In the third segment of Friday’s football scrimmage against Winamac, Rochester senior defensive end Peyton Young steamrolled Winamac running back Willis Dennis Jr. trying to block him and then took down quarterback Max Gearhart for a sack, seemingly in one motion.
In a scrimmage where nobody keeps score – though if you were wondering, Rochester scored five touchdowns as compared to Winamac’s three – it’s plays like Young’s that Rochester might hope represents what is to come.
“He’s put on good weight,” Rochester coach Ron Shaffer said. “He’s had a really good offseason in the weight room. We kind of noticed at Manchester (University) camp that he was able to hold his own there at defensive end. He really gives us some flexibility if he can play that spot for us and own the right guard position (on offense). We’re going to ask a lot of him if he’s going to go both ways. Tonight was a good step for us to see that, and he did a really nice job for us.”
Winamac’s three touchdowns came in the second segment, in which teams run 10 plays from the opposing 10-yard line.
Otherwise, Rochester strung out Winamac towards the sideline, holding the Warriors to no first downs in the first segment and one in the third segment.
Though Rochester won 10 games in 2022, they allowed 20 points or more six times last year. The way they played Friday could be an early sign of progress.
“I think physicality was big,” Shaffer said. “If you watched, we got some pretty good speed on our defense. The edge is hard to catch on us.”
One of the touchdowns came on a lofted 10-yard pass from Max Gearhart to a wide-open Addison Allen in the back of the end zone.
Gearhart, a senior, takes over at quarterback this year. Cash Roth started at quarterback last year.
“Max is going to be our quarterback going forward this year,” Winamac coach Josh Burgess said. “We just decided that was a better move for us. We’ll get Cash involved a little bit with our split ends, be more athletic out there. But I thought Max did well. He settled in, threw a couple nice balls. There’s some things that he needs to improve on, and we’ll keep working with him, but really, for his first live action, I thought he hung in there and did what we asked him to do.”
Shaffer said that play will be valuable for future film study.
“They got us on a pass play here down in the end zone, but it’s tough when you’re not really working goal-line stuff, and you haven’t seen film, but overall, I’m pretty happy with what we did tonight on defense,” Shaffer said.
Winamac starts three seniors on its offensive line in left tackle Wyatt Wheeler, left guard Max Keller and right tackle Elijah Matthews. Freshman Cody Wheeler, who is Wyatt’s younger brother, will start at center, and sophomore Charles Disinger is at right guard.
“A little rough early, but he settled in fine too,” Burgess said of Cody Wheeler. “Rochester’s got a very physical front four. They got nice players. … They were physical and aggressive up front, and we hadn’t seen that. It’s one thing in practice running our blocking schemes against bags or against freshmen, when you’ve got to go against live varsity, it’s a little bit different. So again, I thought all in all, we settled in. We’ve got some things to work on, but there were some positives too.”
Rochester returns sophomore safety Brant Beck from last year’s team. Sophomores Zakk Parks and Carson Paulik saw time at cornerback.
“A lot going on in their heads and a lot do,” Shaffer said. “We’re asking a lot out of them, and pretty good play tonight so far.”