BY DAVID PEDERSEN
The one-point loss to Providence Academy in the section title game may have been heartbreaking but showed the players had some heart.
Despite having a 5-6 record overall, Rockford almost made a remarkable run to the state tournament, including an upset victory over top section seed DeLaSalle.
The exciting finish may be a reason for an increase of interest in the program with 69 players out in grades 9-12. The Rockets return eight starters on offense and three on defense, plus four more with extensive varsity playing time.
“Experience will be a strength,” notes coach Dan Houghton. “Our team is very good at understanding how and why we run what we do on both sides of the ball. Depth for starting positions is another strength.”
Junior Brock Deering returns at quarterback. Top returning running backs are seniors Nick Suardi and Jordan Redepenning, plus sophomores Sasha Galka and Tommy Reinking.
Wide receivers are senior Jesse Gabler and juniors Brandon Schumacher and Brody Harstad. Tight ends include senior Logan Suko and junior John-Luke Singh.
The experienced offensive linemen include seniors Karsten Poulsen, Joe Heffernan, Keith Propson and Jordan Hubbs, plus junior George Faue.
Rockford has less experience on defense but is not short on athletic ability. A key position in Rocket football has long been at linebacker. Working at the position will be seniors Ben Arens and Suko, Schumacher and sophomores Jake Clouse and Kane Vogel.
The top senior defensive ends are Hubbs, Zach Nelson and Alex Shaikoski. Defensive tackles are seniors Dylan Fitzsimmons, Poulsen, Joe Heffernan, Andrew Meuwissen and Matthew Meuwissen.
Defensive backs are Galka, Redepenning, senior Conner Soligny and sophomore Jeremy Bingham.
“We expect to be competitive in all games, looking to improve each game and be playing well going into the playoffs,” adds Houghton. “This offseason a lot of our team went out for winter and spring sports as a way to stay active and in shape, while getting the weight room time we need to get better.”
Rocket power is a summer lifting, core and speed program that had a good number of football players. Within Rocket Power there are two football practices per week.
Players also attended a school minicamp and went to a team camp at South Dakota State University. Houghton adds, “We had a large number of guys that put in a lot of time for this season.”
The season opens at home, 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 30 against Watertown-Mayer. Rockford plays at Eden Valley-Watkins Sept. 7, at home against Kimball Sept. 14, at Maple Lake Sept. 21, at Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa Sept. 28, at home against Pierz Oct. 5, at Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Oct. 12 and at home against Holdingford Oct. 17.