IHSA Class 4A Quarterfinals – #4 Herrin (10-1) at #1 Rochester (11-0)

By Steve Dunford 

The Herrin Tigers head to the Springfield area to face the Rochester Rockets.  Along with Bloomington Central Catholic, Rochester is a program that perks up my ears when I hear their name. In six of the last seven years the Rockets have taken home state titles.

The Rockets play in the Central State 8, with schools in the Springfield-Decatur area.  It is mainly a 5A conference.  Rochester is the smallest school in the conference with an enrollment of 774.  Every other school is 1000 +.

They beat Prairie Central 42-6 in the first round of the playoffs. Last week they beat Belleville Altoff 41-23.  They are in a closed conference, and every game has been a blowout, except against powerhouse Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin 35-28.  that game was the most points the Rockets gave up as well as the least points they put on the scoreboard for a year.

The Tigers road to DeKalb began with a 63-28 win over Paris and a 33-18 win over Tolono Unity.

I talked to Rochester coach Derek Leonard this week and this is what he had to say about his team,  “Our quarterback Nic Baker is our one returning starter from last years team so he is really a key part to our offense I would say.  Our O line has done a good job also, we are averaging about 6.5 a carry, and they have also protected our QB well also.  Defensively is the strength of our team, we had 7 returners from last years team, so most of our experience is on that side of the ball.  They have played pretty good all year.”

“I think Herrin is very physical and a well coached team, we know we have to try and stop their running game.  They have very good size up front and they are very physical. Their running backs our all really good too and can hurt you in different ways.  Defensively they are also very physical and big up front. So we have to  do a good job running the ball and stopping the run if we want to have any success in this game.”

Since the game is in the Springfield area and to the best of my knowledge there is no video streaming,   I spoke this week to the voice of the Herrin Tigers Mike Murphy this week.  He will be bringing the game to all of us in Southern Illinois.  He has been the voice of the Tigers since 1976.  I like to remind him that I have listened to him all my life when we talk.

Murph had this to say what is like going on the road.  “It is a lot different at home you are familiar with the press box.  It is special to call a playoff game at Herrin, since I went to school and played there. A few years later started broadcasting their games.”   

When you are on the road it is different.  “You have to see if there are courtesy phone lines or have to go with a cell phone hookup.  When you have a phone line, the quality of the broadcast is better.  You have to get there earlier.” 

“I’ve had the privilege to call two state championship games where two teams in Southern Illinois won, Zeigler-Royalton in 1982 and Carterville in 1996.  You lose a little bit of the atmosphere playing in a college stadium.”     

He went on to talk about the Tigers.  “Jase Gosha has been playing hurt and been having big games in the playoffs.  Jackson Yates was getting very few carries at the start of the year.  He is exploding down the sidelines like the Road Runner now.”

I watched some film on Rochester this morning.  Nic Baker is the real deal.  I think Hamilton Page hands down was the best quarterback in Southern Illinois.  If you would take Page and juice him up on a video game, you would have Baker.

He average passing 253 yards per game and has a gaudy QB rankling for 152.4

The kid has a cannon.  I was watching a montage of clips on Hudl this morning, and there was one play that stood out.  It had to be last year against Altoff, because they were playing on Lindenwood’s candy cane.  He was being sacked around the 50 yard line.  He was half-way down. and hit a receiver in the end zone for a touchdown.

I tried to find out where he is playing his college ball.  At 5′ 9″ I see shades of Doug Flutie.

The Rockets do not have a set running back.  They had five kids who have picked up between 300-500 yards.

Herrin is much better in the backfield than Rochester. I think the Tigers match up with them on the line.

Twitter will blow up around the state if Herrin pulls off the upset.  Win or lose,  the Tigers will give them a fight.  We will find out at 4:00 p.m.   I will be listening to the game on 103.5 ESPN.

By the way, yes Herrin Defensive Coordinator Dwayne Summers used to pick me up and do curls with me when we hung out together when I was in high school.  I have told that story a few times over the last couple of weeks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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