Week 6 football preview: Zebras need to come up Strong vs. Peru QB
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Peru (4-1, 3-1 Three Rivers Conference) at Rochester (0-3, 0-3), 7 p.m.
The Rochester football team is coming off a 54-0 loss to Tippecanoe Valley last week, and coach Sean Kelly is still examining ways he can best utilize his personnel.
Since the Zebras started practice three weeks later than other teams in the state due to a coronavirus-related shutdown and since they have played two fewer games, Kelly is assessing his lineup decisions.
While he didn’t list any specific changes for this week’s game against Peru, he said that sophomore Eli Swango showed promising signs against Valley at inside linebacker.
“I think you’ll see people moving around or people maybe establishing themselves more at certain positions,” Kelly said. “With a young team, you’re always wanting competition and people that are improving and getting better being rewarded for that.”
RHS has also spent time working on tackling technique on defense and the quarterback-center exchange on offense. The Zebras lost a fumble to Valley on an exchange in the first quarter.
“Obviously, we didn’t tackle very well against Valley Friday night, and we talked a little about that and tackling people up high and especially people who can overpower us so we need to get a little better tackling techniques, and we’ve been working on that,” Kelly said.
Seeking their first winning season since 2016, Peru is doing it with their running game and their defense. Last year, they allowed 30 or more points in a game five times. This year, they haven’t done it at all.
Last year, they allowed 43 points to Maconaquah. This year, they allowed seven, even though Maconaquah had a returning quarterback (Nolan Kelly) and fullback (Carter Little) from last year.
Kelly said he sees better athleticism on the Peru defense.
“The last couple years, they were very young, similar to how we are young,” Kelly said. “They have kids that are getting older and getting better. And they also have some good young kids also. Their front four is pretty stout, and they have linebackers that will run to the football and a pretty decent secondary behind them. So they’re pretty solid all around. We’re going to have to find a way to sustain a drive or two here. We can't get a first down or two and putter out.”
Meanwhile, Peru ran the ball 49 times while passing it only three times in a 14-7 win over Maconaquah last week. Levi Strong ran for 103 yards and passed it for another 32 in that game, and Brayden Masters added 128 yards rushing.
Strong is also a talented punt and kickoff returner.
Peru beat RHS 44-33 last year and is 3-2 against the Zebras since joining the TRC in 2015.
“Peru, they want to run the ball,” Kelly said. “He’s going to either hand it off to the Masters kid, who’s a very good back and who’s been one of their backs for several years now, and he’s had some good running games for them in the past, and he’s a strong, low-center-of-gravity-type runner, and he’s got some quickness.
“Both of those guys run the ball really hard. If he’s not handing it off to them, they’re either faking the midline or the veer, and he’s either ducking in there behind them, or they also run a pretty decent counter play off it. Those two are the main runners. He’s a strong kid. It goes along with his name.”