Week 7 preview: Shaffer to Zebra players: Cherish the opportunity to play
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Northfield (4-2, 4-1 TRC) at Rochester (3-1, 2-1), 7 p.m.
“If this is the worst thing that happens to you in your life, you’re probably going to be pretty blessed,” Rochester football coach Ron Shaffer told his team when they came back to practice after a two-week COVID-related layoff.
The Zebras have practiced every day since Monday in preparation for this week’s game against Northfield.
It’s been a normal week after a two-week COVID-related pause that prevented them from playing against Tippecanoe Valley and Peru.
After two weeks away, Shaffer told the players to cherish the opportunities to play. In the age of the coronavirus, nothing is promised.
“Everybody’s back,” Shaffer said. “The practices have been really good. We had a really long talk before our first practice back. We had a meeting and just talked about how blessed and lucky we were to be back playing. How much I missed coaching and how much they missed playing. It really set the tone for the week. It’s been a good week of practice. Kids have been focused getting ready to play Northfield.”
While they were out, Shaffer said he talked to the team about getting in some running to help them stay in condition. He said he has “pushed” the players with physical practices to help get them back in game shape.
“The kids hung in there and fine,” Shaffer said. “We expect the conditioning to be OK going into Friday night.”
The challenge in their first week is a Northfield team that has won four straight games since an 0-2 start. The Norsemen averaged 10 points per game in losses to Bluffton and Tippecanoe Valley to start the season, but they have averaged 36 points per game during their four-game winning streak.
Jaydan Goshert ran for 171 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-13 win last week over Wabash. Quarterback Jake Halderman added 131 yards rushing and two touchdowns, plus he also passed for 27 yards.
“We cannot let him roughshod through our defense,” Shaffer said of Goshert. “So we’re going to try and take him away and make other people try to beat us, but we’re going to play responsibility defense. You’re going to have fullback, quarterback and pitch guy every play.:
Rochester defeated Northfield every year from 1995-2014. Northfield coach Brandon Baker played on the Northfield team that beat Rochester in 1994, and he has presided over Northfield’s 5-1 streak against the Zebras since 2015. That includes a 70-6 Northfield win in 2016 and a 62-0 Northfield win in 2020.
“They’ve been reminded,” Shaffer said of last year’s game. “Northfield never took their foot off the pedal and kept going. It’s our responsibility to keep them from scoring, and we didn’t do that. It’s been an emphasis for our team going into Friday night is that they have a very potent offense on the ground and what I would call a quick-strike or opportunistic offense through the air. … For us, it starts with trying to dominate the line of scrimmage because they’re going to try to dominate you.”
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