Fayetteville ended last season with a triumphant victory on a last second touchdown to finish their season at .500. After the slow start as a result of head coach Kevin Finch having just 10 days to prepare for the entire season, the Rockets emerged as a strong contender at the midway point of the season.
Fast forward ahead to last Saturday morning for the second scrimmage of the season for the Rockets. They were facing off with the West Union Dragons, a team they defeated last season 40-0. On Saturday morning, the Dragons gave the Rockets a much better battle than they did last year.
Finch has the luxury of having two solid starting quarterbacks on his roster in Cole Schafer and Tim Crone. Schafer is coming off a knee injury that kept him out the entire 2014 season, which helped Crone step into the role as starting quarterback.
Schafer started the game for the Rockets and displayed his arm strength with some deep slant routes early which West Union had no answer for. Even more important for the Rockets was the running game led by senior Caleb Dowers. With lots of key returners, the Rockets looked strong against the Dragons.
However, it was the little things that caused the most concern for the Rockets. The Rockets were penalized several times for lining up in the neutral zone or not having enough men on the line of scrimmage. Finch said that isn’t something he is too concerned about with a week left before the regular season opens. He said they hadn’t practiced much on game situations up to this point.
“The little things on that I don’t worry about, yet,” Finch said. “Next week we should be fine tuned with that, but with it only being our second official week of practice those are things we have to get coached up and correct. Now we have some fundamentals we need to work on like ball security and a better job of tackling. We didn’t tackle as well as we did in our first scrimmage.”
The Rockets lack of tackling opened up the field for the Dragons to make big gains throughout the scrimmage, but the Rockets “bend, don’t break” defensive mentality held strong early in the scrimmage. Fayetteville got pressure on the quarterback in passing situations as well as forcing a lot of three and outs and fourth down turnovers.
The Rockets biggest asset against the Dragons came in the trenches. Their offensive line pushed the West Union defense around all morning. The Fayetteville backs, Dowers, Chase Jester, and Eli Wolfer, as well as quarterback Crone found gaping holes in the defense all day long and broke for big runs.
Coach Finch said he was pleased with how well the running game has come along since the beginning of last season. All last season it was the Rockets bread and butter. The now older and wiser Rockets team has a year under the new offense led by Finch and showed the improvements on Saturday. Fayetteville opened the field up to not only the running game but the passing game as well.
With Schafer and Crone battling it out for the signal caller, the Rockets should be in great shape to take on Clermont Northeastern in week one this season.