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  • Val T.

Week 6 preview: After Bell game loss, Rochester seeks better offensive line play

BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

Peru (2-3, 2-2 Three Rivers Conference) at Rochester (4-1, 3-1), 7 p.m.

Rushing yards were plentiful for the Rochester football team out of their wing-T offense in their first four games.

They had 350 yards rushing against Southwood, 347 against Knox, 314 against Whitko and 444 against Wabash, and they won all four games.

But in their 26-17 loss to Tippecanoe Valley in the Bell game last week, they were held to 106 yards on the ground, and junior fullback Alex Deming, even though he scored both Zebra touchdowns, was held to a career-low 39 yards on 13 carries.

“Pad level again is so important,” Rochester coach Ron Shaffer said. “We played again with too high of a pad level, and the importance of physicality at the point of attack. We just lacked that early. It developed as the game went on and even turned the tide a little bit at least on the offensive side as we were moving the ball fairly well and got good results.”

Shaffer took some blame for the offensive line issues.

“But you want that early too,” Shaffer added. “And so we just didn’t have it at that point. It falls onto me as a coach in preparing them. I’ve got to do a better job.”

Shaffer said “maybe a little bit” when asked if he thought Valley was tiring in the fourth quarter.

“It seemed like we had a physical advantage towards the end of the game, at least on the offensive side,” Shaffer said. “We were getting more things going for us. The trap game was coming back. The power game was coming back. Our belly sweep was starting to work. Whether it was our kids figuring it out or we were gaining a conditioning advantage there at that point because of how many kids we have going one way, it seemed like we had turned the momentum in our direction later in the game offensively. We still struggled with stopping them on defense most of the night.”

Sophomore left tackle Xavier Vance will miss the Peru game due to a suspension after being ejected against Valley. Shaffer did not elaborate on what Vance did to get suspended or how he will replace him.

Vance also sees occasional time at defensive tackle, and the focus there this week will be on stopping Peru junior quarterback Matt Roettger. Roettger has played varsity since his freshman season, but this is first as a quarterback.

He is averaging 6.5 yards per pass attempt on just under 13 attempts per game.

“He has a really strong arm,” Shaffer said. “He throws the ball well on the run. He seems to extend plays with his movement in the pocket. They like to roll him out a little bit. He seems to be fairly accurate with his throws on the move. The biggest thing is he’s the guy they look to as a leader on that offense. … He’s the real deal back there. Is he (Southwoods) Mo Lloyd? No, but Mo Lloyd isn’t him either.”

Rochester is 2-4 against Peru since Peru joined the TRC in 2015. Last year’s game was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Peru coach Tim Weeks is in his first season. He replaced Romison Saint-Louis, who left to take the coaching job at Elkhart.


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