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  • Val T.

Week 9 preview: Stout Zebra defense hope Mac’s Kile won’t make house calls on Birner

BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

Maconaquah (6-2, 6-1) at Rochester (6-2, 6-1), 7 p.m.

Even though they are both seniors, Rochester’s Peyton Young called teammate Brady Beck his “mentor.”

Beck is in his fourth year as a starter while Young is in his second. Young is also in his first year starting both ways. So it’s not uncommon for Young to receive counsel from Beck on the intricacies of playing offensive guard or defensive end.

Told of Young’s plaudit, Rochester coach Ron Shaffer said Beck is a mentor to more players than just Young.

“There are a lot of guys that look up to him,” Shaffer said of Beck. “And he’s put himself in that position. He’s one of our captains. He’s put himself above reproach as far as he does everything right and practices hard, prepares, knows what’s going on with the game plan so that he can be a mentor. So kids look up to him because they know he’s prepared. He’s going to give them good advice. He may tell them things they don’t want to hear sometimes.

“And that’s probably where Peyton’s coming from. They’re both equals as far as seniors. They both start on the offensive line. They both start on the defensive line. And they’re both captains. But yet Peyton still says he looks up to him, so there are things that Brady’s still teaching him and bringing him along.”

Meanwhile, time during team film sessions have focused on cutting down on penalties.

The Zebras are coming off a 41-0 win over Southwood last week, and though that margin was decisive, it also came despite Dylan Hook having two touchdowns – one on a punt return and one on a reception – called back by penalty.

Rochester also had a Beck defensive score called back by penalty in a 62-0 win over Northfield one week earlier.

Officials have been cracking down on Illegal use of hands and illegal crackback block penalties.

“It’s not a case of unsportsmanlike (conduct) or anything like that,” Shaffer said of the recent spate of penalties. “The kids are just trying really hard, but sometimes trying really hard doesn’t cover up a penalty. You’ve got to block a guy in front. You’ve got to be able to see him. He has to be able to see you in this era of football. There is a correct way to crack back from the inside, so it’s just one of those things our kids have to learn.”

As for Maconaquah, they come in with identical overall and conference records to Rochester. The winner will finish no worse than sole possession of second place in the TRC, and if Manchester beats Peru, the winner will tie Peru for the conference title.

Maconaquah ran the ball 34 times and passed it 32 times in a 55-13 win at Wabash last week, but Shaffer said Maconaquah is a passing team that still relies on the connection between senior quarterback Braxton Birner and junior wide receiver Fuddy Kile.

Kile had six catches for 90 yards against Wabash last week, and that came one week after he had 11 catches for 213 yards and four touchdowns in a win over Lewis Cass. Kile also had nine catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-14 loss to Rochester last year.

As for the Rochester defense, it has notched four shutouts in their last six games.

“He’s their go-to guy,” Shaffer said of Kile. “When the crap’s hitting the fan and we need a first down, we go to Alex Deming. When the crap’s hitting the fan and they need a first down, they go to Fuddy Kile. And I would too if he was lining up for me. He’s 6-1ish, 160-some, 170-some pounds. He’s not huge, but he plays the game very physical. That stands out. He’s a good route runner, great hands, doesn’t drop many balls. … He’s caught 53 balls in eight games. That’s quite a few touches. … He’s half of their offense as far as the passing game goes. … He’s their guy. He’s the guy you want to stop.”

Meanwhile, Rochester has averaged 41 points per game in beating the Braves each of the last two years, which is on par with Rochester’s 40-plus scoring average since the start of the 2022 season. But as for Maconaquah, they have reduced their defensive scoring average from 28 points per game last year to 20 this year.

Linebacker Brady Dausch has had four games in double figures in tackles.

Rochester will have a bye next week before traveling to Winamac or Lafayette Central Catholic for a Class 2A, Sectional 34 semifinal on Oct. 27.

Shaffer was asked how the bye will change their preparation for this game.

“We’re not really changing our approach to this game at all,” Shaffer said. “I think we’re still going five days this week. We had Saturday practice, then four days, then we’ve got the game on Friday. It hasn’t really changed our preparation at all.”



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