BY DAVID PEDERSEN
New varsity players learning new positions may have been a factor when Rockford’s defense gave up 52 points in the first football game this season.
Much more settled into roles for the second game, Rocket players transformed adjustments into a 13-12 victory at Eden Valley-Watkins Friday.
This was the first victory for Rockford over EVW since 2001 and only the third loss in conference play by the Eagles in the last six years.
“Hats off to our kids who kept believing and working hard all game,” said coach Dan Houghton. “I am very proud of our effort and mental toughness to go into Eden Valley and come out with a victory, which doesn’t happen very often.”
Houghton didn’t totally blame the Rocket defense for the lopsided loss to Watertown-Mayer. It did not help when the offense turned the ball over three times inside its own 20-yard line.
The defense had two “big” goal line stands to help seal the victory over EVW, plus added six quarterback sacks.
When the Eagles were trying to ice the game with a final touchdown from Rockford’s own 30 yard line with 4:30 left in the game. Rockford’s Joe Heffernan sacked the quarterback while stripping the ball. Karsten Poulsen scooped up the ball and scored from 68 yards out to give the Rockets a 13-12 lead.
The defense stopped the Eagles last drive and the offense got a first down to ice the game.
“The difference this week was better communication from our defense to each other and the coaches on the sideline,” said Houghton.
The coach adds how some varsity newcomers on defense have been big surprises. Linebacker Jake Clouse and defensive back Jeremy Bingham earned starting spots as sophomores.
Clouse led the way against EVW with 12 tackles. Senior linebacker Ben Arens and junior defensive back Sasha Galka each had nine tackles.
Another big surprise for Houghton was how well senior twin brothers Andrew and Matthew Meuwissen have played. They both played for the JV last year, mostly in offensive roles. Mathew was a linebacker until this year where “he is learning everything new.”
EVW took a 6-0 halftime lead after Arens blocked the point after attempt. Early in the second half Rockford took advantage of a bad snap over the punters head, taking over on the 25-yard-line. Running back Nick Suardi was untouched on his way to the end zone from 12 yards out.
Also working on the defensive line are Dylan Fitzsimmons, Karsten Poulsen and Heffernan. Defensive ends are Zach Nelson, Alex Shaikoski and Jordan Hubbs.
Logan Suko and Brendon Schumacher are linebackers. Other defensive backs are Conner Soligny and Jordan Redepenning.
Against EVW quarterback Brock Deering was 4 of 8 passing for 25 yards with one interception. He also gained 27 yards on 10 carries. Suardi rushed 16 times for 60 yards. Brody Harstad caught two passes for 18 yards.
The Rockets next play at home against 2-0 Kimball Area, 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14. Last year Kimball pulled out a 19-18 victory.