PEARL CITY – There’s a very clear difference between prolific passing attacks and effective passing attacks.
The Rock Falls Rockets had a prolific passing attack this season.
Starting quarterback Jacob Mammosser completed 213 passes on 259 attempts for 2,218 yards and 21 TDs. There’s no official comprehensive Sauk Valley record book, but there’s a good chance that Mammosser set an area record with that season.
The Eastland-Pearl City Wildcatz have an effective passing game. Deven Heeren, who stands 6-5, 175 pounds, had thrown for 832 yards on 55 completions and 15 TDs before Saturday’s first-round playoff win over Luther North.
One can bet, though, that Mike Papoccia, the coach of the Newman Comets, who will meet the Wilcatz in the second round, will spend time this week warning his players about the EPC passing game.
“We have quite a few passing plays in our offense, we just don’t use them that much or often because we don’t have to,” tight end Skylar Paulson said. “It’s something we can do, and other teams have to prepare for.”
Paulson, who is known for his staunch defense on the hardwood, stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 225 pounds. Luther North defenders found out Saturday that it’s no fun trying to tackle him when he catches the ball. Paulson had a pair of catches that he turned into touchdowns by making victims of Luther North defensive backs.
“When he catches the ball, you know that he’s going to fight for more yards,” Heeren said. “He’s a big target with good hands.”
“Both the touchdowns were plays where Deven throws it to a spot, and it’s my job to get there and make a play,” Paulson said. “I made the catch and just kept going.”
The opposite of that is Donny Groezinger, who also caught two TDs against Luther North.
Groezinger is listed at 5-9 and 160 pounds. He’s shifty and quick, and the most likely to catch the deep ball.
On Saturday, he also showed his hands. In the first quarter, he positioned himself between a defender and the back of the end zone for a pass from Heeren. The ball floated and Groezinger jumped, caught the ball over the defender and then tapped his toes inside the line just like an NFL receiver.
“That first touchdown pass was pretty ugly,” Heeren said, “but Donny saved me by making the catch. I’d trust my life in his hands. He catches everything that you throw anywhere near him.”
Heeren finished with a tidy line of five completions on five attempts and four TDs and 102 passing yards.
The passing prevented Luther North from stacking the box to stop bruising fullback Eric Schaney.
That makes Schaney more effective.
Now, only time will tell if all of it will be effective enough to topple the Comets – a 3A semifinalist a year ago.