BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
The final memory of the Rochester football team’s 2023 season might be allowing 288 yards passing to Lafayette Central Catholic in a 28-22 loss last week.
Overall, the defense was better in 2023 however. Last year, they had one shutout. This year they had four.
They allowed 18.9 points per game last year. This year, they allowed 12.8, and that number was under seven in conference games.
An offseason spent at coaching clinics and time in southern California at St. John Bosco paid dividends, according to coach Ron Shaffer.
“We gave up 61 points, I believe, in conference play in eight games… I think we ended up giving up 128 overall,” Shaffer said. “The last eight hurt the most, but our defense gave us an opportunity to be victorious in about every game we played. Now our offense does a good job of complementing what our defense can do, holding onto the ball, long drives, those things. But I thought our coverage was very good. They had some big plays but very few chunk plays over the season, over the long haul. I think our kids played very good football for the scheme we were trying to employ.”
Offensively, the wing-T remained fruitful as the Zebras averaged 307.5 yards per game on the ground and averaged 38.4 points per game.
But they will also lose starting left guard Brady Beck and right guard Peyton Young to graduation. The footwork and movement of the guards is essential to ground success.
“We always build everything from the inside-out,” Shaffer said. “Whether it’s your defense and you’re going to build a good core right down through the middle, offensively, we’ve got to build a good core down through the middle of our offense. Guards are really important to us, and it’s one of those things where I don’t know that too many people have taken a snap at left guard since his sophomore year.”
But the even bigger loss might be fullback Alex Deming, who finished his prep career with 110 yards and two touchdowns against Central Catholic. He finished the season with 1,220 yards and 19 touchdowns and his career with 4,637 yards and 70 touchdowns.
He averaged 6.9 yards per carry for his career, impressive given that most of his runs were between the tackles and amidst much defensive traffic.
Wingback Colton Ferverda also graduates, and he and Deming combined for 1,778 of the 3,075 rushing yards the team had.
Quarterback Carson Paulik and wingback Brant Beck are both sophomores, and Shaffer said he does not see any major systemic changes.
“I think we just maybe look at it a little different,” Shaffer said. “See who emerges there at that position (fullback). Obviously, large, large shoes to fill. I don’t know if we have another Alex Deming, but I think we’ve got somebody who can hold down the fullback responsibilities. I don’t know if we’re going to have a guy who can take it 30 carries a game and be a workhorse like that, but definitely, I think we’ve got somebody in the stables that can line up in that position and run trap and run down and kick out on power and run belly. I think the offense is in a good place.”
The coaching staff had been working with Paulik in practice on becoming more of a factor in the running game, and he responded with a season-high 37 yards on 10 carries.
Shaffer said Paulik is big and strong, and he sees more running opportunities as part of his future.
“Not all of those were designed,” Shaffer said of Paulik. “Some of them were missed handoffs, but some of it was by design. We thought he would get some carries, probably not quite 10 but maybe in the six to seven range. I thought he did a really nice job with his fakes and holding onto the ball and running. Thirty-seven yards is a nice addition out of him.”
Shaffer also said the JV team beat all of its TRC opponents. He said numbers are “a little low” in the eighth grade but “really good” with around 18 kids in the seventh grade. He estimated about 100 kids play in the youth leagues, where a player as young as a third-grader can play.