STERLING – Former Rock Falls star quarterback Robbie Minor got a taste Saturday night of what current Rocket QB Jacob Mammosser feasts on every Friday.
Minor couldn’t get enough.
The 2003 grad and former Division I and professional baseball player threw for 150 yards and two touchdowns and added a TD catch to lead Rock Falls to a 24-21 victory over the Sterling Golden Warriors in an alumni football game at Roscoe Eades Stadium.
“I wish I got to play in this offense,” Minor said with a smile, referring to coach Scott Berge’s pass-happy, wide-open attack. “It’s a lot of fun to run, and once you figure out what to look for and where to go with the ball, it’s tough to stop.”
But as good as the Rocket offense looked at times, it was the defense that stepped up when the game came down to the wire.
After taking a 24-7 lead with 3:30 left in the third quarter, Rock Falls failed to put the game away after stalled drives the next two possessions. That let Sterling back into it, as Niko Rivera (Class of 2009) tossed a pair of touchdown passes to cut the deficit to 24-21 with 7:36 to play.
But the Rockets salted things away with their ninth possession, then iced the win with their 10th.
First, they took nearly 5½ minutes to go 25 yards, then got a huge boost when the game’s lone punt got a great bounce. It ended up at the Sterling 10-yard line for a 45-yard boot, and the game all but ended when Austin Krone (2002) intercepted Rivera’s pass down the right sideline on the very next play.
“We knew we had to stop their inside plays and force them to go outside and down the field,” said Krone, the Rockets’ defensive MVP. “That’s exactly what we did. The interior guys did a great job. Us outside guys just stood and watched a lot in that first half. Then, when the time came to make some plays, we stepped up and got it done.”
Krone’s pick was the second interception of the second half for the Rockets. The first came with a 26-yard return by Chance Wright (2006), and set up Rock Falls’ final touchdown.
The Rockets opened the second half with a 14-play, 80-yard march down the field. Two plays after Minor connected with Matt Hudgin (2004) for a 37-yard gain, he shoveled a pass under heavy duress to Margarito Ibarra-Diaz (2006), who plowed in from 8 yards out for a 16-7 lead.
On third down of the Warriors ensuing possession, Wright picked off Rivera’s pass to the right flat and returned it 26 yards to the Sterling 24; 12 more yards were tacked on after a half-the-distance unnecessary roughness penalty on the tackle.
On second-and-12, Minor rolled to the left and and threw high into the end zone; Ibarra-Diaz outleaped a pair of Sterling defenders for and 14-yard TD connection and a 24-7 lead.
“It just came down to who made plays,” Sterling’s Joe Schneiderbauer (2007) said, “and you’ve got to hand it to Rock Falls, because they got some big ones.”
But the Warrior defense did some yeoman’s work of its own. After that 80-yard Rock Falls TD drive to open the second half, Sterling held the Rockets to 86 yards the rest of the way, allowing its offense to mount a comeback.
“We definitely felt some urgency after they got up two scores; it was a no-brainer for us that we had to step up,” Sterling defense MVP Colt Preston (2007) said. “I think we finally figured out some patterns and got a good idea of what they were trying to do, and made some quick adjustments to keep us in the game.”
First, the Warriors’ offense answered Rock Falls’ scores. Tyler Garcia (2011) ripped off a 20-yard run on fourth-and-3 from the 50-yard line to set up Rivera’s 30-yard scoring strike down the right sideline to a wide-open Jake Hermes (2008) in the final minute of the third quarter.
Then, after taking over on downs at their own 33, the Warriors struck again. Rivera scrambled to his right and made an off-balance throw on the run down the sideline, again to Hermes, who had slipped behind the Rock Falls defense. After a holding penalty, Rivera hit Juan Monarrez (1999) for 10 yards, then found Codtey Albright (2007) on a 16-yard TD pass, with Albright spinning away from defenders at the 5-yard line and diving into the end zone.
“We opened things up in the second half, and I just kept seeing Jake open downfield,” said Rivera, who passed for 103 yards. “That second one, I just heaved it; I knew he’d either catch it or it would go out of bounds for an incompletion to avoid the sack. I took a chance, and it worked out.”
Rock Falls opened the game with an onside kick, then converted two fourth downs on that first drive before Minor caught a 24-yard TD pass from starting QB Jerry Sharp (1994). Sterling then recovered the next squib kickoff, and marched 60 yards in 12 plays; Hermes capped that drive with a 5-yard TD plunge to get within 8-7.
But that’s all the Rocket defense would allow the rest of the half. Despite starting their next three possessions inside the Rock Falls 30, the Warriors left empty-handed each time, thanks to two missed field goals and turning the ball over on downs after two costly substitution penalties.
Sterling managed just 31 yards and one first down in those plus-field position situations.
“Absolutely, our defense stepped up huge,” Minor said. “They made some great stands in the first half, then got us a big momentum swing with a couple of turnovers. Our defense took Sterling out of what they wanted to with the inside running game, then we took what they gave us on offense … and those two things worked really well together.”
Rock Falls outgained Sterling 277-246 and had 16 first downs to Sterling’s 11. The Rockets did most of their damage through the air, throwing for 203 yards. The Warriors ran for 131 and threw for 115.
Rock Falls 24, Sterling 21
Star of the game: Robbie Minor, RF, 150 passing yards, 2 TDs; 30 receiving yards, TD; 43 rushing yards
Key performers: Margarito Ibarra-Diaz, RF, 39 receiving yards, 2 TDs; Koty Schwarz, RF, 9 catches, 90 yards; Niko Rivera, Sterling, 103 passing yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs; Jake Hermes, Sterling, 93 total yards, 2 TDs