Rockets reloaded: Expectations lift off with seniors back in mix
|Steven Armoska (left) and Mason Thompson should add zip for the Rockets, who went 0-9 last season. (Philip Marruffofirstname.lastname@example.org)|
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ROCK FALLS – About a year ago, Mason Thompson wasn't ready. A couple of months later, he wished he had been.
All that matters right now is that the fleet-footed trackster is ready to make Rock Falls' spread offense sing.
As the Rockets' season opener Friday in Harvard nears, Thompson is grateful to his teammates, who graciously brought him back into the fold after he quit the squad before the first game last August.
"I came into last season with a bad approach and a bad attitude," Thompson said. "There were more expectations on the varsity level. Once we started taking it more seriously, I just wasn't ready for it, I think, mentally. This year I wanna be here and stay the extra 20 minutes after practice.
"The fun we're having, and how good we're feeling, it makes all that stuff go away."
Even though the Rockets were on a crash course for an 0-9 campaign during their first season as members of the Big Northern West, head coach Jay Mammosser checked in with Thompson and asked him if he missed football.
"I told him, 'Coach, you have no idea.' " Thompson said. "He kept on me, now here I am and I'm loving it."
So are the other 27 Rockets, among them Steven Armoska, a basketball standout who missed last football season and the bulk of the hoops campaign because of a suspension. This fall, he'll be a marked man – in the eyes of his quarterback.
"He brings more speed, but also some size," Mammosser said. "He and Mason will be big in our spread offense."
"They're two pretty quick guys," heavy-hitting lineman Shawn Skinner said. "Mason's really fast and he will get to the ball. Steven will catch anything within his reach."
"We're going to get the ball," Armoska said. "Everybody's going to get the ball. And if you can't catch me, than you're not catching any of these other guys, because they're [even] faster than me."
He's referring to the glut of multi-sport standouts who will line up at skill positions for the Rockets, including seniors Austin Babcock and Alex Leaf, who will line up at either running back or wideout on any given play.
"It's awesome to have both [Steven and Mason]," Babcock said. "It helps the rotation of players for each player and every position. It gives us some size and versatility that teams will have to deal with. They'll have to figure out how to stop us."
Armoska says the Rockets have "perfected" the spread. That remains to be seen. But Babcock undoubtedly visions of what was possible with the addition of Thompson and Armoska.
Thus, when Thompson wasn't at the first practice Aug. 8, his captain, Babcock, was all over him.
"He hasn't missed a practice since," Babcock said with a big smile.
The Rockets have added some wrinkles to the offense and also plan to mix up their blitz packages to keep opponents guessing.
They hope to put lots of smiles on their fans' faces this season. The grimaces they induced in winning just one game over the past two seasons? A distant memory for some.
"That's in the past, the present's a gift and the future's a mystery," senior lineman Jonas Robbins said.
For others, past failures lights their wick.
"Coming off 0-9, really it's embarassing," Skinner said. "The way we played would not be acceptable this year, not with all the seniors we have and the talent we have coming back."'
2011: 0-9 (0-5 Big Northern West)
Coach: Jay Mammosser (9th season)
Opener: Aug. 24 at Harvard, 7 p.m.
FYI: The Rockets last qualified for the playoffs in 1992, one of just two postseason appearances in the program's history. It has one winning season in the last 10 years.
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