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  • Val T.

Week 12 preview: Zebras seek first sectional title since 2000, must stop Central Catholic’s spread

Updated: Nov 6, 2022

BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

Class 2A, Sectional 34 final: Lafayette Central Catholic (8-3) at Rochester (10-1), 7 p.m.

(winner plays Andrean-Bremen winner in regional)

Rochester football coach Ron Shaffer hopes to conduct a practice in the dark. They are one win away from doing that.

The Lafayette Central Catholic and Rochester football teams come into Friday’s Class 2A, Sectional 34 final at Barnhart Field with perhaps different historical perspectives about getting this far.

Rochester is in a sectional final for the first time since 2000. Lafayette Central Catholic is in a sectional final for the ninth consecutive year.

Rochester is seeking its first sectional title since the 2000 team finished the job with a 41-18 win over Peru. Central Catholic has won 11 sectionals, eight regionals, six semistates and six state titles since then.

But it’s also true that Rochester averages more points (42.9 to Central Catholic’s 37.8) and allows fewer (18.5 to 22.2).

Central Catholic has eight wins, but only two are against teams with winning records. Rochester has 10 wins, four of which came against teams with winning records.

Both teams have three wins over Class 3A teams.

Rochester has wins over Knox and Northfield, both of which are still playing. Both came on the road.

Rochester is undefeated at home. Central Catholic is 3-2 on the road, and only a season-opening 45-21 win at Seeger was against a team with a winning record.

Rochester ran for 499 yards out of their wing-T offense in their 50-26 win over Benton Central in the semifinals. Brant Beck (172 yards), Colton Ferverda (160) and Alex Deming (138) all surpassed 100 yards rushing, and none of them had a carry in the fourth quarter.

Deming reached the 1,500-yard mark for the season against Benton Central, and he, Beck and Ferverda have combined for over 3,000 yards between the three of them. Rochester has averaged 7.9 yards per carry as a team.

Rochester coach Ron Shaffer said he continues to make adjustments to the running scheme, and he credited some decision-making from quarterback Aaron Swango

“I think the execution was really good,” Shaffer said. “We used a scheme we haven’t used a whole lot a little bit with some what I call our midline option belly play, so it looks a little bit different but very effective against Benton Central, and we just lived on that play pretty much. A lot of people would call it a double dive, but it’s a read play. Aaron Swango did a really good job on it, and we got a lot of yards off it, but still the execution was there. A really good by the offensive line in executing it.”

Meanwhile, this will mark the second straight week Lafayette Central Catholic has faced a wing-T team. Lewis Cass ran for 308 yards against them last week but committed six turnovers and lost 48-27.

On the other hand, this will mark the second straight week that Rochester has faced a team playing a spread offense. Benton Central’s Joe Widmer passed for 317 yards and three touchdowns out of the spread last week, and wide receiver Corbin Cooley also completed a 34-yard pass on a double pass.

“I’m not concerned at all,” Shaffer said when asked if pass rush or pass coverage was a bigger concern. “There were breakdowns. They were mental breakdowns more than physical. One of them, the double pass, we just got a player, he’s hustling, and he’s almost trying to do too much by what he thinks is… their screen, and he’s trying to hustle to get across that he may get to make a play and help out and it’s a double pass and it’s passed over him in his zone. Those are things we just have to learn from.”

Central Catholic’s Ben Mazur, a 6-3, 206-pound senior, threw for 287 yards and six touchdowns against Lewis Cass out of their spread. Three different receivers – Owen Munn (90), Robert Koch (82) and Evan Dienhart (79) – all had over 70 yards receiving.

It’s a spread with run-and-shoot and Air Raid qualities, according to Shaffer.

“He does a really good job of finding open receivers with his reads and progressions,” Shaffer said of Mazur. “If he has to extend a play with his feet, he will. It doesn’t look like he likes to do that necessarily. He likes to stay in the pocket.”

And in addition to that, Central Catholic has a fullback in Baylor Smith who has rushed for 1,374 yards and 15 touchdowns that Shaffer compared to a “bowling ball.” Shaffer said the Knights are at a “50-50” balance between the run and pass when they are operating effectively.

Shaffer said there is letting hitting in practice as there was in Week 1. If a team does not know how to be physical by now, Shaffer said, the team is probably in trouble anyway. Plus, every team is “beat up a little bit,” according to Shaffer.

Practices are about “sharpening of the tools through technique and fundamentals” at this point. It’s all about getting a little edge.

While a sectional final might be a unique occurrence, it’s not for Shaffer. He was an assistant coach on a sectional championship team as recently as 2019 with Lewis Cass.

He does not want his players thinking in the past, but he is also relaying his experiences, telling players how special this is.

One of those things would be having a practice where it got dark outside before the practice ended. Daylight Savings Time is next week, but only a few teams are typically still playing by the time in November when people turn their blocks back an hour and it becomes dark before 6 p.m.

“We feel a sectional championship may be the hardest championship to win in all of sports because of the span of three weeks and three games to do it, to keep everybody healthy and play well and limit mistakes,” Shaffer said. “All those things that can happen in a three-week span with a team is amazing what you can do. But then we also told them to dream a little bit and think about after this week, if you get that win, every week is for a championship, and it goes so fast.

“And so we’re excited for the opportunity.”

This is the first meeting between No. 9 Central Catholic and No. 7 Rochester. If Rochester wins, they would play the regional against No. 5 Andrean or Bremen on the road.


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