Week 4 preview: Rochester to face big Manchester linemen
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Manchester (2-1, 2-0 Three Rivers Conference) at Rochester (2-1, 2-0), 7 p.m.
Already leading 21-0 at halftime against Whitko last week, Zakk Parks returned the opening kickoff of the second half for a touchdown, and the Zebras also scored on their first two offensive possessions of the second half in a 42-0 win.
But perhaps even more impressive was their defense. Maddox Jewell and Parks played cornerback with Gavin Young and Dylan Hook at safety. Brant Beck moved from safety to outside linebacker, and Alex Deming moved from linebacker to defensive end.
The Zebras wound up recording their first shutout since a 70-0 win over Whitko last year.
That segment of the game gave Rochester coach Ron Shaffer reason for optimism moving forward.
“I think in the third quarter, our defense came out and was really flying around the field,” Shaffer said. “I think we saw throughout the game what Alex Deming can do on the line of scrimmage to an offense, and it really came through in that third quarter. Everybody was playing a little more fired up and with a little more fire in their bellies. And so, I thought that was a pretty exciting time. The sideline was fired up, and everybody was getting into it.”
Now both they and Manchester will look to stay unbeaten in TRC play. This is Rochester’s first meeting with Manchester since a 41-14 loss to the Squires in 2020.
“Very large,” Shaffer said of Manchester’s offensive line. “They’re bigger than Valley’s, but it’s a different bigger. They’re not necessarily those 6-5-type of guys. They’re more 6-1, 6-2, 6-3, tipping 315, 320 pounds. And one guy’s about 260, and then there’s one little tiny guy, but you don't even notice him because everybody else is huge. … It will be the biggest offensive line we’ve seen so far.”
Manchester’s wins over North Miami and Wabash were by a combined 16 points, and the Wabash win last week went two overtimes. Bluffton drubbed the Squires 56-14 in their nonconference game on Aug. 25.
Manchester has already equaled their win total from last year. They allowed 40 or more points five times in 11 games last year.
“We think we’ve identified them as a 4-4 team,” Shaffer said. “But they will line up in what looks like an odd front with three guys with their hands on the ground, but it’s not an odd front, not in the conventional sense. A lot of even-front, 4-4 team, three-deep. They’re aggressive to the ball. They’re not always disciplined in what they do, so we’re hoping that we can take advantage of that. They are very aggressive up front, quick off the ball, which does concern me.
“They just kind of fly around. They’re a little bit smaller in the secondary with what we’ve seen with other teams, and so we’re hoping to get on the perimeter and have an advantage there.”