Hinders Field in Rock Falls is a special place for Scott Berge.
He grew up a Hail Mary pass away, just east of the stadium, and played football with his buddies as a youngster near the field while the varsity did their thing. He now resides just a few houses away from the field.
It’s also where he got married, on the 50-yard line, on June 16, 2012.
“That’s where I learned how to play football,” said Berge, a 1996 Newman graduate. “When I had the opportunity to take this job, there’s a lot of respect I have for what happened here, whether it be good or bad, in the past years. A lot of my friends played here, and I know they worked their butts off. I know there’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears that went into this program.
“And I know after the alumni football game, there’s a lot of guys that want to see this turned the other direction. I’m really excited about that.”
Berge, who coached at Ashton-Franklin Center for four seasons (2007-10), is in his third year at Rock Falls. He was the defensive coordinator in 2011, then moved over to the offensive side a year ago. When head coach Jay Mammosser resigned after last season, Berge took over his duties.
Not much will change on the offensive side of the ball. Berge will oversee a wide-open attack that produced an average of 28.1 points per game in 2012. Back to run the show is junior quarterback Jacob Mammosser, though he will have to break in a new set of receivers to throw to.
“We’ll keep it pass-happy, as everybody likes to say,” Berge said. “My thing’s on the offensive side of the ball. I’ve gotten pretty good at figuring out what to do on the offensive side, from watching film, talking to coach Mammosser and talking to other coaches from throughout the state.”
The defensive side, however, is another story. The Rockets couldn’t stop anybody in 2012, with the 328 points allowed (36.4 per game) being the most in the conference. Winnebago, on the other hand, gave up just 280 – and that was in 12 games. Scott Blair will serve as the Rock Falls defensive coordinator in 2013.
“Defense is a big emphasis for us,” Berge said, “and I know the kids are taking an extreme amount of pride in getting that number down.”
The defensive issues didn’t stop the Rockets from winning three games a year ago, their most since a five-win campaign in 2009. They finished with wins against Burlington Central and Oregon, and Berge hopes to keep that positive mojo rolling into the current season.
“That senior group from last year I think turned the corner for us,” Berge said. “I think we’re on an upswing here because of those guys, and a lot of credit has got to go back to that senior class from last year.”
• In the past 10 seasons, Rock Falls has won 3 or more games just three times: 3 in 2008, 5 in 2009, & 3 in 2012. The last time the Rockets made the playoffs was 1992; they were eligible in 2009, but didn’t have enough playoff points.