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Know when to fold ‘em...or at least kick it deep

Rock Falls' Austin Donoho stiff arms Byron's Austin Carlson during Friday's game in Byron. The Rockets lost 56-43. Read more about that game on FB4.
Rock Falls' Austin Donoho stiff arms Byron's Austin Carlson during Friday's game in Byron. The Rockets lost 56-43. Read more about that game on FB4.

BYRON – You know me. I’m an open book. So I have no problem admitting I’ve played a lot of Madden.

In college, we’d waste space for hours at a time. We even created custom teams and built leagues. After the NFL slate on Sundays, about a half-dozen of us would gather at casa de Heimerman and play our respective games, analyzing each other’s styles and tendencies.

Somehow, I got my degree. And I used to educate my opponents by treating each game with the patience of the most staunch NFL coach to roam the sidelines. Think Dick Jauron.

While the other guys might wing the ball and pray on fourth-and-12 from their own 40, I was hitting the coffin corner from their 39 on fourth-and-inches.

Given, I’ve only seen two Rock Falls football games, but it doesn’t take long to recognize Maddenesque riverboat gambling when you see it.

I like Scott Berge. He shoots straight. Seems like a good dude. He even entertained me questioning the Rockets’ philosophy. It didn’t hurt that I started out by saying it’s impressive that the numbers on the south side of the river have spiked, and that the Rock Falls coaches have gotten their players to buy into the system.

We’re not going to punt, unless it’s absolutely necessary. We’re going to kick it onside. Every. Single. Time.

Berge is happy to admit it’s unconventional. He even threw out the stat that the average high school team begins its drives at its own 37.

“So if they start at midfield, what’s 13 yards? It’s not a whole lot,” Berge said.

It’s sound math. But it does not exist in a vacuum. I’ve seen the Rockets kick the ball onside 13 times in the two games I’ve covered. If you give up 13 yards of field position each time, that’s 169 yards sacrificed.

Hey, guy, you might say, they got one back Friday night! You know, that’s a heck of a point. But all but two of the other times in the two games I’ve watched, the opponent scored on the short field. And, even if you recover, you're not guaranteed a score. Even Rock Falls' high-octane offense clunked out at the Byron 20 after recovering an onside Friday.

Not to mention this strategy abandons the best thing the onside kick has going for it: the element of surprise.

While my Madden style might be boring, I’m a big Saints fan. So I have a big place in my heart for teams that roll the dice.

But I think about the message a kid might take from never kicking it deep once in a while. How about with 1:51 left in the first half Friday, the game tied 21-all? Why not tell your defense, “I trust you to stop them. We’re going to pin them deep, stop them and score”?

Instead, the Rockets allowed a 47-yard touchdown drive. On the flipside, imagine starting down a short field every time you open a drive.

Oh, and then there was the punt. Oh, ye gods, the punt.

There the Rockets were, in the very spot I’d love to put a team right before the half, barely enough time for a possession left. And they were going to go for it twice from the 22, then the 17, if not for procedural penalties pushing them back to the 12. And then they snapped the ball to Jake Mammosser, who pitched it to Daegan Wharff, whose boot was blocked.

Why the extra moving parts? Berge just said that’s how they do it. Maybe they don’t have a long-snapper.

I know Amboy’s Hunter Varga would argue, but I’ve gotta believe you could develop one fairly easily.

I don’t know. I’m just a guy with a laptop, keeping the McDonald’s staff from cleaning this booth. I don’t know everything.

But if anyone would like to argue on behalf of Rock Falls’ roll-the-dice, double-snap punt, if-ever-punt-at-all approach to the game, I’m all ears.

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