College Football: Ridgewater Football Week 7 Preview
Rochester has never been so air-worthy as this fall. With three freshmen quarterbacks sharing the snaps, the Jackets cruise at an altitude of 364 yards per game compared to a meager 52 yards per game on the tarmac. Earl Young (63-120-918, 8 tds), Kevin Monkam (34-48-509, 5 tds) and Josh Valla 64-105-735, 5 tds) keep the opposing secondary hopping. Those 18 TDS and 2,494 air yards came with 12 interceptions. Central Lakes managed to bring down "Air Rochester" in Week 4, 31-23. The Raiders, Jackets and Warriors are each 5-1 and all headed to the postseason under the new eight-team playoff format. Ridgewater needs a win today or next Saturday back home against Central Lakes to get home-field advantage in the quarterfinals.
Last Saturday evening's game at Hodapp Field drew another good turnout in the stands, though less than homecoming. Unfortunately, a few Warriors lost their cool when the game went badly returning to the bench cussing loud enough for many to hear. Coach Rob Baumgarn made the entire team pay with extra sprints on Monday. From now on, such outbursts will mean immediate exile from the game, the coach said this week. The Warriors will need to be more clinical and less emotional to bring down the Rochester flying club. The line and linebackers will need to bring pressure on the quarterback and the secondary will have to be sharp throughout. "The idea is to not give up the big play but if we do we can't hang our heads; we have to bounce right back," said Baumgarn. The defense wasn't the problem last week in the 20-12 loss to Fond du Lac. The Thunder did put up three touchdowns but the Ridge defense has allowed just 60 points, an average of 10 points per game. The offense had a couple of long drives but posted just two scores and could not get anything done at crunch time. The rushing game remains the bread-and-butter. Baumgarn said sophomore center Michael Shultz (Chatfield) and freshman left tackle Daniel Stuewe (Cologne) have been exceptionally reliable providing pass protection and creating space for the running backs, especially Martell Baker (89-470, 5.3 per carry). At 280-pounds Aaron Kerkow (Jordan) is also doing a nice job rotating with 240-pound Cody Rosenau (Lester Prairie) when more heft is needed on the line. The Warriors loss dropped them from No. 1 in the MCAC rankings to No. 4 this week.
-- Rand Middleton