There aren’t many football teams that can say they go toe-to-toe with Newman and hold their own, but Rockridge is one of them.
The Rockets and Comets renew what has been a spirited rivalry on Friday night in Edgington.
Newman (3-1, 1-1) has won four in a row in the 5-year series, but three of those have been decided by a touchdown or less. A year ago, the Comets had to overcome a 15-0 deficit to eke out a 22-21 win against Rockridge
(3-1, 1-1) at Roscoe Eades Stadium.
“They always give us fits,” Newman coach Mike Papoccia said. “Their kids are very well-coached, and they play extremely hard. They’re down in numbers this year like we are, but they’ve got 11 kids on the field all the time playing extremely hard. They know how to defend us and how to attack us as well as any team we play.”
For the third year in a row, a main focus of the Newman defense will be on the Rockets’ quarterback, Riley Fetterer. He’s a true dual-threat QB, according to Papoccia.
“He’s got the quickest feet of any quarterback I’ve ever seen, and he’s a smart kid,” Papoccia said. “He’s improved his passing a great deal, too.
“He’s spot-on every pass we’ve seen him throw, and he’s thrown a lot this year,” Papoccia continued. “He’s doing a great job. They sprint him out, which is a double-whammy. We’ve got to find some way to keep him in the pocket, get some shots at him, and make him throw it faster than he wants to.”
Fetterer did get banged up a bit a week ago, which helped contribute to a 35-6 loss to Fulton, but he missed only one series of that contest. He was unable to run much, however, severely limiting his effectiveness.
Whatever level Fetterer’s fitness is at this week, he’s sure to garner a lot of attention from the Comet defenders.
“We’ll just try to keep him in the pocket, because he’s a real fast, mobile quarterback,” senior linebacker Colin Roberts said. “He’s got a good arm. We just need to have a lot of pressure on him at all times, pretty much.”
The Comets were clicking on all cylinders a week ago in a 55-8 rout of Morrison. Newman rushed for seven first-half touchdowns in building a 48-0 halftime lead.
There is always room for improvement, however, according to senior running back Bryce Ivey.
“Everybody’s playing hard, but we still have some jittery moments at the beginning of games,” Ivey said. “We know that once we start clicking, there’s not many teams that will be able to stop us. We’re just pretty good at doing what we do, and that’s run.”
Newman was coming off a 20-17 loss to Orion the previous week, but showed no ill effects from that game against the Mustangs. A long kickoff return set up a score less than a minute into the game, and the rout was on.
“Morrison isn’t a bad team, and we held them down pretty darn well,” Papoccia said. “Their running backs are extremely fast, and their line gets off the ball well. We were happy with how we played. Offensively, we got off the ball well ourselves, and our backs finally blocked somebody.”
Newman at Rockridge
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Rockridge H.S., Edgington
Radio: 102.7 FM