The Rock Falls offense showed some added spark in Week 4. After scoring a total of 33 points in the first three games of the season, the Rockets scored 38 in a loss to Stillman Valley on Friday.
Xzaviar Epps rushed 21 times for 108 yards, tripling his season total from the previous 3 weeks. Cade Nailor passed for 155 yards, up from his 114 yards per game average.
For Rock Falls, the big difference to get the offense moving came up front.
“This week, it was the line,” Rockets wide receiver Nate Wiles said. “The line was standing up, blocking, giving my quarterback time, giving my running back holes to run through.”
The 194 rushing yards in the Week 4 loss to Stillman Valley were far above the net loss of yards the Rockets suffered in a Week 2 loss at Dixon.
“We ran the ball really well,” Rock Falls coach Steve Disler said. “We haven’t done that all season. Hopefully our line is getting it down. New schemes, and they’re getting it figured out. Hopefully we can continue to build on that this week.”
Disler brought a new system with him when he took over the program in the spring, and the new way of doing things is starting to click for the players.
“It was a major learning process,” Nailor said. “Brand new playbook, everything was new, everyone had to learn different stuff. I had to change my footwork on my one-step and three-step drop. But it’s all starting to come along, and everything’s starting to click.”
Installing a new offense meant new schemes and new plays, and while the players were understanding what to do in the offseason and earlier in the season, Disler said they are starting to understand why things are drawn up the way they are.
“I think they’re starting to see the whole thing piece together and why it works that way,” Disler said. “We’ve got to conitnue to get more physical, get better.
“We made some mistakes last week where we kind of got lucky and made plays. We have to correct those,” Disler added. “Continue to install the playbook. We had some silly penalties and silly mistakes that shot us in the foot, and we need to correct those and I think we’ll be good.”
That improvement is in part because players are better versed in their roles, but also because, as Nailor sees it, they are starting to come together as a team.
“I think everyone’s working together and talking more,” he said.
This week means a trip to Winnebago and a matchup with an Indians defense throwing multiple looks onto the field up front, from stacking linebackers to moving between a 3-5 and a 4-3.
Adjusting to what the Indians defense will do from play to play comes down to Rock Falls’ offensive line reading the defense in front of them, understanding their roles, and seeing the overall picture.
“Our linemen have to call out their numbers, call out who they’ve got,” Epps said. “When they evaluate who they have, our quarterback will look and read the defense. If I get it, I get it. If he pulls and throws it, he throws it.”
Rock Falls will be facing a Winnebago offense itself coming off a 33-point performance in a win over Rockford Lutheran, 2 weeks after scoring 42 points against Mendota.
Though they swing passes out to the edges at times, the Indians will use a lot of Power-I and pro-style sets to run the ball right through a defense, powered by the twin threats of Caden Hawkins and Jared Roberts.
“They’re bowling balls,” Disler said. “They get hit and just spin and keep falling forward, so we’ve got to make sure we get three or four guys to the point of attack.”
Rock Falls at Winnebago
When: 7:15 p.m. Friday
Where: Winnebago H.S.