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High school football: Rockets focusing on fundamentals

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014 11:42 p.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014 5:21 p.m. CST

Scott Berge would love to put the series of blunders that led to last Friday's 41-0 loss to Harvard under the category of inexperienced players making mistakes.

He'd be eager to attribute it to young players letting first-game jitters get to them.

But the second-year Rock Falls football coach can't and won't do that, and that's one of the reasons fundamentals have been stressed this week in preparation for Friday's game at Marengo (1-0).

"It was seniors making mistakes," Berge said. "It was kids making physical mistakes that we never anticipated happening. We had seven bad snaps, and too many penalties.

"That comes back to us getting them properly ready for the game. We didn't do our job, so we've changed some things this week. We've put that 41-point loss behind us, and now it is all about Marengo."

For the second season in a row, the Rockets (0-1) started the season playing Harvard. For the second season in a row, the game was delayed by lightning.

"We got off the bus, and it was already lightning off in the distance," Berge said. "I asked if they really even wanted to start, but they wanted to.

"When we went to the locker room for halftime, I told the refs that we were ordering pizzas. They said that wasn't necessary, because we'd get going right after half. Well, we ordered them anyways. What are we supposed to do with all these kids on a bus for that long."

The game ended up being delayed at halftime for 3 1/2 hours. The threat of delay and then the actual delay made it difficult to keep focused.

"You get there, and you're ready to go, but you don't know how long you're actually going to play," junior running back Braeden Westfall said. "Then it's a really long wait. I think we actually came out after half playing better as a team."

Westfall was a bright spot for the Rockets. He rushed for 153 yards on 14 carries in his first varsity game. The spark in the running game picked up for a passing game that wasn't eating up yards as much as it had the last two seasons.

"The passing game just wasn't as sharp as we would have liked it," Berge said. "Then Braeden comes out in the second half and starts getting carries of 8 or 9 yards a pop. We'd have a couple really good plays, but then shoot ourselves in the foot with a penalty or bad snap.

"Braeden, though, really stepped up, and that's something positive we can build off of."

Westfall pointed out that part of his success came from an offensive line that started to take more control after half.

"After half, the line started to really work together," Westfall said. "That's what led the holes to open up for me.

"I can tell that we've already learned from last week. This week, the practices have been more intense and more focused. We know what we have to do better."

The Rockets will face a Marengo team with a very different look and vibe from that last two seasons, in which Rock Falls has won both meetings.

Marengo coach Matt Lynch has switched to a spread offense, and that has allowed quarterback Ethan Walsweer to shine. The Indians, who have one winning season in the last 16 years, started the season with a 45-28 win over Byron.

"They are fast, and they are now running the spread," Berge said. "Most of all, it looks like they are having fun. That's a dangerous combination.

"We've won the last couple years, because we've executed the things we do very well. That's what we have to get back to this week."

When: 7:15 Friday

Where: Marengo High School

FYI: Rock Falls has a two-game winning streak against Marengo.

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