Week 4 preview: After routing Whitko, Rochester can’t take for Grant-ed it can stop Wabash’s spread
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Rochester (3-0, 2-0 Three Rivers Conference) at Wabash (1-2, 1-1), 7 p.m.
It’s possible that the Rochester football team proved that Whitko is ill equipped to compete at the Three Rivers Conference level when they beat them 70-0 last Friday.
Or it is also possible that the Zebras proved that they have a deep roster of capable players that are capable of performing under the Friday night lights.
Carson Paulik, Ethan Amezquita, Maddox Jewell, Declan Gard and Brant Beck all had their first career rushing touchdowns against Whitko. Aaron Swango had his second.
“We knew some things going in as far as being able to be close to two-platoon, but I think we were able to see some young guys produce and know their assignments, so it was nice to see that,” Rochester coach Ron Shaffer said. “We may be even a little deeper than we thought. It was nice to be able to give them that opportunity to perform, and they did.”
Shaffer also praised backup offensive linemen like Callen Ferverda, Matt Crossland and Rosswel Zeiger.
When reserves can come in and succeed, Shaffer calls it a “program statement.”
“Especially on offense, going in and knowing your rules,” Shaffer said. “We block rules, and so they can go up there, and they know their rules, they can block any front that they see, and so a lot of our kids were able to go in there with minimal prep … and for them to go in there and know their assignments and be able to perform and know the playbook well enough that if I call something, they know the rule for it and how to block it and how to run it.”
Rochester hopes to keep up that success and their undefeated record against a Wabash team against whom they are 14-0 since Wabash joined the TRC in the fall of 2006.
Wabash has the conference’s leading passer in junior quarterback Izaak Wright, and the spread offense he commands includes three capable targets in Antonio Grant, Trevor Daughtry and Keaton Fields.
Grant might also be especially dangerous. He had seven catches for 125 yards and a touchdown in a 28-27 win over Manchester last week. He also had an 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on special teams and an interception and a fumble recovery on defense.
Grant also had seven receptions for 183 yards and two touchdowns in a 44-19 loss to Rochester at Barnhart Field last year.
“A lot of hitches, a lot of slants,” Shaffer said of the types of plays Wabash likes to run for Grant and Daughtry. “They will take their shots with them every once in awhile deep on some ‘nine’ routes. For them, they are OK with 5 and 6-yard completions. They’re very patient in their offensive attack, so we have to be really good in our pass drops to take away those throwing alleys and lanes on the slants and the hitches.”
The bigger key might be whether Wabash can stop the Rochester ground game. Wabash has allowed their opponents to rush for 606 yards in their last two games, which might leave them vulnerable against Zebra fullback Alex Deming and wingbacks like Payton Luhnow, Colton Ferverda, Gavin McKee and Beck.
Rochester is No. 12 in this week’s Associated Press Class 2A poll. It marks their first poll recognition of the season. Sectional rivals Lafayette Central Catholic and Lewis Cass are Nos. 7 and 11, respectively.