BURLINGTON – Rock Falls needed one defensive stand and one lucky bounce to possibly pull out a win against Big Northern crossover opponent Burlington Central on Friday.
It got neither.
The Rockets hung tough for most of the game before faltering late in a 41-28 loss to Central.
Rock Falls (1-7) and Burlington Central (3-5) each scored four touchdowns through the first 37 minutes of play, but Central held a 28-24 lead on the strength of four conversion kicks from Casey Matthews. Rock Falls, meanwhile, was 0-for-4, failing on two kicks, a pass and a run.
After a 25-yard touchdown pass from Jacob Mammosser to Cory McCallister brought Rock Falls to within 28-24 with 11:38 left in the fourth quarter, Central embarked on a 15-play, 75-yard march that culminated with a 1-yard plunge by reserve running back Jeremy Esin.
Backfield mate Reilly Marino carried 10 times on the drive for 48 yards. He finished the night with 35 carries for 179 yards and one touchdown.
“If I get the ball, I’m going to use what I’ve got and produce for my team,” Marino said.
Rock Falls, now down 35-24, did its best to respond. The Rockets went from their own 42 to the Central 4 in just five plays. On a first-and-goal from the 4, however, Mammosser’s pass intended for Daegan Wharff ricocheted off a Central helmet and into the arms of BC defensive back Adam Skirmont for a touchback.
On the next Rock Falls possession, Mammosser had a pass picked off by Central’s Jonathan Frederickson and returned 45 yards for a touchdown.
Mammosser completed 23 of 45 passes for 310 yards, including TD passes of 25 and 8 yards to McCallister and 14 yards to Austin Donoho. Mammosser also ran for a TD.
The top target was Donoho, who hauled in 12 passes for 143 yards.
“I think we could have played better in every aspect,” Donoho said. “You’ve got to try for perfection, and we didn’t get it done tonight.”
Rock Falls did have some bright spots. The passing game clicked for 310 yards; Donoho and Dustin Huycke made interceptions to halt Central drives in the first half; and the Rockets converted seven fourth-down chances.
“The kids played their butts off tonight,” Rock Falls coach Scott Berge said. “We asked for 48 minutes of football, and they gave us 48 minutes of everything they had. We were down to about 14, 15 guys by the end of the game. We got everything out of everybody. As a coach, I couldn’t be prouder of them.”