When the IHSA football schedules were announced late last week, Rock Falls coach Scott Berge liked what he saw.
It will be no picnic as the Rockets make their way through the Big Northern West for the third time, but something popped out as they try to improve on a 3-6 mark from a year ago.
“It’s going to be nice to have five home games,” Berge said. “We haven’t have had that in at least four or five seasons, and with me being a first-year head coach, it’s especially nice to have our first two games at home.”
The Rockets open against Harvard and Marengo, and also host Winnebago in Week 5, Mendota in Week 7 and Oregon in Week 9. Four very difficult road tests await against Rockford Lutheran, Byron, Stillman Valley and Burlington Central.
Berge was the architect of an offense that racked up 253 points in a pass-happy offense in 2012.
, and junior quarterback Jacob Mammosser returns to run the show.
“We’re not going to change anything,” Berge said. “Lutheran runs this offense, and I think it gives the other teams on our schedule something different to prepare for. We’ve got a lot of young quarterbacks coming up that fit in this system.”
Defense, however, is something that needs to improve. The Rockets allowed 328 points last season, the most in the conference – and Winnebago (280) played 12 games a year ago, Stillman Valley (254) and Lutheran (295) played 11 and Byron (252) played 10.
“We’ve definitely got to tighten up on defense,” Berge said. “We’ve got to play fast, just like on offense.”
Much like Rock Falls, Oregon will be looking for improvement this season. The Hawks went 2-7 a year ago, the first time since 2004 they didn’t win at least six games and make the playoffs.
The 2013 schedule likely won’t do Oregon any favors. There are just four home games, and the nine teams on the schedule had a combined winning percentage of .615 a year ago.
Non-conference opponents Momence, Harvard and North Boone had a combined record of 19-11.
“It’s the same schedule as last year, just at different sites,” Oregon coach John Bothe said. “The big difference is some of the teams that have struggled in the past, like North Boone, Lutheran and Rock Falls, have gotten better. There’s no easy weeks in the Big Northern.”
Coming up Saturday
• SVM takes at look at the NUIC Northwest