Deming, Ferverda rush for 2 TDs each; Parks returns kickoff for TD
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
SOUTH WHITLEY — Sporting a new-look defense different in scheme and personnel from their first two games, the Rochester defense blanked host Whitko 42-0 Friday to stay unbeaten in the Three Rivers Conference.
Alex Deming and Colton Ferverda had two touchdown runs each, and Brant Beck also ran for a touchdown. Also, sophomore Zakk Parks scored his first career varsity touchdown when he returned the opening kickoff of the second half 83 yards for a touchdown to make it 28-0.
Dylan Hook had a 29-yard punt return that set up the Zebras’ first touchdown and an interception and a 12-yard return that set up their second. In the third quarter, he had a 27-yard punt return that set up Beck’s 13-yard touchdown run that made it 35-0.
The mercy rule went into effect with 8:12 left in the third quarter.
This marked the second straight year Rochester has shut out Whitko. They also blanked them 70-0 last year. It’s the third shutout in the three-year Ron Shaffer era at Rochester.
Rochester held Whitko to five first downs.
The defense had most of the same players from previous games against Wabash and Tippecanoe Valley, but Rochester switched from a 4-4 defense to a 4-3.
Rochester’s defensive changes in the front seven included Deming moving from inside linebacker to defensive end, Brant Beck moving from safety to outside linebacker and Wesley Meadows moving from inside linebacker to middle linebacker.
In the secondary, Maddox Jewell and Parks started at cornerback while Gavin Young and Hook played safety.
In addition, assistant coach Eric Davis monitored the defense from the press box instead of being on the sidelines. He sent the defensive calls from his headset to assistant coach Nate Basham, who then signaled the call to Meadows, who then called the play in the huddle.
“He can be a wrecking crew up front,” Shaffer said of Deming at defensive end. “I don’t need him four yards away from the ball. I want him closer to the ball to disrupt things on the line of scrimmage. Then (as for) Brant at linebacker, we saw him on scout team playing some linebacker stuff, and we just thought he sees the plays well; we’re going to go that direction. He played it pretty well tonight.”
Rochester lost a fumble on their first possession as Whitko penetration created a sloppy exchange between quarterback Carson Paulik and Deming. Landon Smith recovered the fumble on the Whitko 15.
But after Hook’s first big punt return to the Whitko 19, Ferverda took a sweep around the right side as new right tackle Rosswel Zeiger helped cave in the left side of the Whitko defense for the game’s first points.
After a sloppy snap on an extra point try, Paulik’s pass for a two-point conversion was incomplete.
Hook’s interception and return to the Whitko 38 foiled the next Wildcat drive. He also provided run support from the secondary on defense, and he had a 15-yard reception on offense on the Zebras’ final touchdown drive.
“It’s pretty high,” Shaffer said when asked about Hook’s potential. “We saw that’s what could happen with him. Boy, he played physical tonight, more physical than we’ve seen him play as a junior, and really, you saw the break on the ball for the interception and what he can do on punt returns. We’re just excited for the ceiling on him.”
After Hook’s pick, Paulik passed to Maddox Jewell for 20 yards. Deming ran for 17 yards to the Whitko 1.
On the first play of the second quarter, Deming scored, and Parker Wallace kicked an extra point to make it 13-0.
The next Whitko drive ended in a punt, but Riley Harman’s punt spun back and touched a Rochester player in the foot who was blocking for a potential return. Whitko’s Preston Furar recovered on the Rochester 34, and Whitko would eventually get a first-and-goal on the Rochester 10 after a 12-yard run from sophomore Landon Smith.
But Smith was stopped for one yard, Trevor Freel was stopped for no gain, and quarterback Jack Hill was stopped for no gain. On fourth-and-goal, Hill’s pass intended for Kaden Ciaccia-Long in the left front corner of the end zone fell in complete.
Rochester then responded with a 10-play, 91-yard drive for a touchdown. The drive included two illegal block penalties, but Rochester also converted a third-and-nine on a 48-yard pass from Paulik to Meadows down to the 2, and Deming scored on the next play with 54.2 seconds left in the half. A Deming two-point conversion run gave Rochester a 21-0 lead they took into halftime.
“It was a bit underthrown because he was being pressured, so I just came back and jumped up and luckily caught it,” Meadows said.
The second half started with Parks juggling the kickoff and picking it back up closer to the 20. He put his hand on Ferverda’s hip, feeling for his lead block and sprinted through the avenue that Ferverda and Brady Beck created. He outraced Furar to the end zone to make it 28-0.
“I got really worried when I started bobbling it at the beginning, but then I just saw a hole, and I hit it,” Parks said. “They come across the field, and they pull-block basically, and then they just hit whoever’s in the way, and I just follow behind them.”
Shaffer said the team emphasizes kickoff returns in practice.
“We work on it a lot,” Shaffer said. “It’s an every-week thing. Our average has been pretty good on kickoff returns so far, and the kids have executed well on it. But people are going to start doing some different things. We'll have to adapt to that.”
After a three-and-out and another long Hook punt return, Brant Beck had two carries for 32 yards on the next possession, including a 13-yard scoring run.
Ferverda had a 1-yard touchdown run to cap a seven-play, 78-yard drive on Rochester’s next possession.
Brant Beck finished with a team-high 86 yards on the ground. Deming added 71, and Ferverda had 51.
Rochester 42, Whitko 0
Rochester 6 15 21 0 – 42
Whitko 0 0 0 0 – 0
RHS – Colton Ferverda 19 run (pass failed)
RHS – Alex Deming 1 run (Parker Wallace kick)
RHS – Deming 2 run (Deming run)
RHS – Zakk Parks 83 kickoff return (Wallace kick)
RHS – Brant Beck 13 run (Wallace kick)
RHS – Ferverda 1 run (Wallace kick)