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Prep football: Rockets dig early hole, get buried by Bago

Rock Falls senior Brendon LeBarron drags Winnebago's Austin Moore during the teams' Big Northern West matchup Friday in Rock Falls. Winnebago won 63-32.
Rock Falls senior Brendon LeBarron drags Winnebago's Austin Moore during the teams' Big Northern West matchup Friday in Rock Falls. Winnebago won 63-32.

ROCK FALLS – It took Rock Falls 9 seconds to get behind the 8-ball against Winnebago, and it didn’t get any better from there.

The Indians’ Mike Pate returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown, and Winnebago was off to the races in a 63-32 victory on Friday night at Hinders Field.

Winnebago (5-0, 3-0 Big Northern West), ranked sixth in Class 3A, scored touchdowns on its first six possessions on the way to a 42-6 advantage. The only time the Indians didn’t score in the first half was when they ran out of time.

“We don’t want to take anybody lightly,” Pate said. “We made some mistakes last year of underestimating teams, and this year we’re trying to take each team week-by-week and just get better.”

Rock Falls (1-4, 0-3) tried to make things interesting, as quarterback Jacob Mammosser threw touchdown passes of 18 yards to Tanner Mortonson just before halftime and 15 yards to Austin Donoho early in the third quarter to close to within 42-18.

Winnebago responded, however, with a 34-yard TD pass from Ryan Swigart to Isaiah Yanni, followed by interception returns of 35 yards from Pate and 55 yards from Austin Moore to make the score 63-18. The running clock was put in motion for the last 17 minutes of the game.

Mortonson relieved Mammosser at quarterback after that and accounted for two fourth-quarter scores, on a 61-yard pass to Trenden Schwindenhammer and a 1-yard run by himself.

The Rockets racked up 482 yards off offense, with 434 yards of it through the air. It translated to just 18 points when each team had its starters in the game, though, and Pate, Winnebago’s middle linebacker, could accept that.

“You kind of figure with these kind of teams, they’re going to get some yards on you,” Pate said. “They’re going to get some bigger plays. It’s not our kind of football. We’re more used to Big Northern football, where you just pound the ball. We had to make the adjustment, and I think we did a pretty good job of it.”

Rock Falls, meanwhile, didn’t keep the Winnebago offense out of the end zone until after the subs entered the game. The Rockets have allowed 46 (Harvard), 66 (Lutheran), 56 (Byron) and 63 (Winnebago) points in their four losses.

“Week-in and week-out, we ask them to give everything they’ve got,” Rock Falls coach Scott Berge said. “Sometimes what we’ve got is good, and sometimes what we’ve got isn’t good. We’re trying to put them in the best situation possible to make something happen.”

Mammosser completed 23 of 41 passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns, but was also intercepted three times, with two of them being pick-sixes. His top targets were Daegan Wharff (8 catches, 89 yards) and Connor Cain (6-68).

Rock Falls managed just 48 yards rushing, with Brendon LeBarron (11-22) leading the way.

“When you become one-dimensional, even with spreading it out and being a gun-slinging team anyway, if you can’t run the ball, it makes it a little tough to find the space,” Berge said.

Star of the game: Mike Pate, Winnebago, 3 TDs (92-yard kick return, 35-yard int. return, 2-yard run

Key performers: Sean Ward, Winnebago, 10-57, 3 TDs; Jacob Mammosser, Rock Falls, 310 passing yards, 2 TDs

Up next: Rock Falls at Stillman Valley, 7 p.m. Friday

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