BY DAVID PEDERSEN
Rockford football battled valiantly against No. 4-ranked Maple Lake before getting edged 35-28 Friday.
A week earlier the Rockets lost by a point in double overtime to Kimball, a team also getting votes in the state rankings.
“We are playing with some of the best teams in the state,” notes coach Dan Houghton. “We now need to get that winning mentality and close these games out.”
Both offenses traded punches throughout the entire first half that ended tied at 21. Maple Lake took the first strike by scoring on an 8-yard run.
Rockford answered with a 7-yard touchdown run by Nick Suardi. The Irish responded with a 6-yard scoring run, answered by the Rockets when Brock Deering scored on a quarterback sneak.
Maple Lake broke loose for a 58-yard touchdown run. On the very next play, Suardi returned the kickoff 95 yards to tie the game at halftime.
Continuing the momentum in the second half, Suardi finished a long drive with a 12-yard run to give Rockford a 28-21 lead.
The Rockets threatened to break the game open when it lost a fumble on the Irish 25 yard line. The defense kept holding Maple Lake, but a punt was fumbled by the Rockets, leading to a 4-yard scoring run and a tie game at 28.
Rockford drove the ball deep into Irish territory again, this time to be turned away at the 8-yard-line. With one minute left, the Maple Lake runner broke four tackles on a 15-yard run. Three more tackles were broken on the 32-yard run that produced the winning points.
“It was the second straight week where the game has come down to the final drive and we have been on the losing side of both,” says Houghton. “We have been putting ourselves in position to win these games, but need to finish it off and get the victory.”
Linebacker Ben Arens led the way with 16 tackles, followed by linebacker Logan Suko with 14 and linebacker Jake Clouse with 11.
Suardi had 163 yards on 25 carries to go with the long kick return for a score. Deering was 7 of 11 passing for 116 yards. Brody Harstad had three receptions for 38 yards and Brendon Schumacher caught two passes for 48 yards.
The Rockets head to face Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28. Both teams are 1-3 overall and 1-2 in conference play. Last year Rockford won 6-2. After that it will be Homecoming week.