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High school football: Defense needs to match offensive output

Rockets recharged

Published: Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013 12:00 a.m. CST
Caption
(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Rock Falls' Lucas Newburgh (right) is part of a linebacker crew that hopes to breathe new life into the Rockets' defense.

Scott Berge is the architect of a Rock Falls offense that can be fun to watch.

He has the Rockets throwing the ball, eschewing punts in favor of fourth-down gambles and playing an entertaining brand of football. It has worked, for the most part, as they scored an average of 28.1 points per game in 2012.

The problem was when Rock Falls didn't have the ball. Opponents racked up 36.4 points per game, and the Rockets finished with a 3-6 record.

Berge, offensive coordinator a year ago, is now the head coach. While he still concentrates on the offense, he also oversees the defense that he feels is making strides.

In a 22-21 win against Marengo last week, the Indians had some help scoring those points. One touchdown was via a pick-six, one after another turnover and one on a short field after turning the ball over on downs.

"Those points were on me, with my play-calling, and I let [the defense] know that," Berge said. "They came up big the whole night. The defense really carried us to that win."

Berge made some changes in 2013 that he thinks will play off. Scott Blair is now the defensive coordinator, and he installed an aggressive 3-4 defensive scheme.

"We're playing downhill a lot more on the defensive side of the ball, kind of like we do on the offensive side," Berge said.

More than that, however, is an attitude that enough is enough, when it comes to teams going up and down the field on the Rock Falls defense.

"We have the mentality that if we play up to our potential, we can stop anybody," senior linebacker Lucas Newburgh said. "Last year we were really tentative, and we had to change that mentality this year."

"We've got a new coach, and all of us know we can't give up as many points as we did last year," senior linebacker Brendon LeBarron added.

The core of the defense are four linebackers in Newburgh, LeBarron, junior Bailee Rosalez and senior Nick Yates that can all run and have a nose for the ball.

Yates played as a freshman, quit playing football three games into his sophomore season, then returned this year, as a senior. He has racked up 24 tackles, including nine solos, as well as a fumble recovery, in two games. He's also a running back.

"I've always played running back and linebacker going back to my days in Pop Warner football," Yates said. "Getting right back into it was pretty easy."

Rosalez played mostly offense a year ago, after injuring his left shoulder making a tackle in Week 2 against Marengo. He's back to playing defense this season and made nine tackles last week, after finally receiving medical clearance to play.

"I like making contact," Rosalez said. "Coach Berge always wanted me to juke more than lowering my shoulder, but I'm more of a contact person. That's why I like playing linebacker."

Newburgh has racked up 15 tackles, and this week will take on an added role on offense. Junior guard Matt Mammosser is lost for the season with a knee injury, and Newburgh, at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, is making the unusual move from wide receiver to offensive guard.

"That's where the team needs me, and that's why I'm doing it," Newburgh said. "I like getting my uniform dirty."

The Rockets (1-1) will need to get down and dirty this week as quite a challenge lies ahead. They will make the trip to Rockford to take on the Lutheran Crusaders (2-0), the state's No. 2-ranked team in Class 4A.

Berge noted Lutheran is blessed with a lot of offensive firepower, with the leader being sophomore running back James Robinson. He has 26 carries for 315 yards and eight touchdowns in wins against Walther Lutheran and Genoa-Kingston thus far.

"Film is like watching a highlight film of somebody, but it's actually a game film," Berge said. "One guy is not bringing him down. We've got to work on getting three, four guys to him. He's a horse."

Rock Fals at Lutheran

When: 7:15 Friday

Where: Lutheran H.S.

Twitter: Follow Brian Weidman (@brianweidman)

Radio: 1240 AM

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