Week 2 preview: Knox’s ground game to test Rochester defense
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Rochester (1-0) at Knox (1-0), 7:30 p.m.
The Rochester football team relied on a 4-2-5 defense against Southwood last week. They held the Knights to just seven points in the second half, and that one touchdown came after Rochester had already built a 21-point lead.
The 4-2-5 defense will likely be put away for this week’s trip to Knox. Rochester coach Ron Shaffer said the 4-2-5 defense is usually used for spread offenses like Southwood’s that rely on throwing the ball.
Knox, however, is a running team that ran for 327 yards and five touchdowns as a team last week in a 54-19 win over Winamac. Freshman Myles McLaughlin had touchdown runs of 33 and 78 yards and a 75-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Jake Conroy is another strong ground threat, and 6-4 senior quarterback Cohen Watson ran for a touchdown and threw a touchdown pass.
With Knox relying on the run, that means Rochester might have to give Knox a different defensive look. Shaffer said the secondary must not bite on the occasions that Knox decides to pass.
“They’re pretty similar to what they were last year,” Shaffer said. “They’re running it out of a few different sets, but mainly, they’re going to line up in two-tight-end sets, three-tight-end-sets. A lot of power read, a lot of counter. They look very similar to us in some ways, but they’re going to have a shotgun snap, and they’re going to have guys flying through kind of like Southwood with the motion, just not from a spread look.
“They’re a run-first offense. You can see that from the stats also, but they can be very effective in the passing game like us. When they throw it, they want to hit big plays.”
Meanwhile, the Knox defense allowed more than 250 yards against a Winamac offense that graduated their quarterback, their leading rusher and their entire offensive line from last year. They will try to stop a Rochester offense that had 425 yards in a 35-21 win over Southwood.
Offensive line play has been a focus this week in practice, according to Shaffer.
“We were lacking a little bit in our footwork, and … it’s an emphasis for us in practice this week,” Shaffer said. “Just making sure we’re taking the correct angles. We ask a lot of our guards to get depth off the line and then take correct angles into the line for the blocks, and we just weren’t getting a whole lot on Friday night, but the kids did adjust well in the second half on Friday and got after it. But it was an emphasis this week to correct that technique.”
Alex Deming ran for 252 yards and two touchdowns in a 12-7 win over Knox last year. He ran for 183 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries against Southwood last week.
“He does a lot with his conditioning,” Shaffer said when asked about Deming’s ability to manage a heavy workload in muggy conditions. “So it’s not just weight room work. It’s also his conditioning work. There’s not too many guys that can pull that off. We did give him a few blows there on defense later in the game, and it’s nice to have a guy to call on like Alex Griggs to go in there and give him a few plays in a row to come off and reload and relax. But we ask a lot of Alex.”
Rochester beat Knox 12-7 in 2018 in their most recent trip to Community Field.
Knox coach Russ Radtke is an Indiana Football Hall of Famer. He has 380 wins in 46 years of coaching. The win total puts him second among active coaches in the state in wins behind Sheridan’s Larry “Bud” Wright and in the top 25 nationally. In his third year at Knox, he also has coached games at North Judson, Connersville, Griffith and New Prairie.