SUGAR GROVE — When Berne Union defeated Bishop Rosecrans in Week 3, Rockets coach Tony Hurps was not thrilled with how the offense played, even though his team won by 42 points.
Since that time, the Rockets made some tweaks on offense and as they prepared for a first round playoff rematch with Rosecrans, Hurps noticed that the Bishops made some tweaks on the defensive side of the ball throughout the season. The Bishops had switched alignments to a 4-4 front away from an odd-man front, causing the Rockets to have some extra homework.
However, the Rockets were able to figure out the Bishops adjustments quickly. The No. 2 seed Rockets ran for 361 yards and threw for 147 more as it coasted past No.15 seed Bishop Rosecrans 56-14 in the Division VII Region 27 first round game on Friday night.
“This time around we played better,” Hurps said afterward. “I think we moved the ball at will and that was good for our guys. It’s hard not to look at next week, but right off the get go we were ready to go.”
As it has been all season, the Berne Union trio of quarterback Nate Nemeth, running back Brae Frisker and receiver Sammy Aminah put on a show. Frisker ran the ball 12 times for 231 yards and three touchdowns — all in the first half. Nemeth completed 6 of 7 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns — both to Amnah — and added 121 rushing yards and two more touchdowns, while Amnah caught four of those six passes for 74 yards.
“We’ve got several pretty special players,” Hurps said of the bunch. “That’s fortunate for us to be able to have that, they all play great. They have a great offensive line in front of them, too, that makes it really difficult for teams to defend us.”
The Rockets (10-0) jumped all over Bishop Rosecrans quickly in the first half. The first play of the game, Friesner busted off a 25-yard run and then two plays later Nemeth finished the drive with a 37-yard touchdown run to get the Rockets on the board, 7-0.
Amnah then ended Bishop Rosecrans’ first drive with an interception near the goal line, setting his offense up at its own three. The Rockets then went 97 yards in four plays that ended with a 24-yard touchdown run from Friesner for a 14-0 Rockets lead. A turnover on downs on the Bishops (4-7) next possession and three plays later Amnah got behind three Bishop defenders and Nemeth hit him with a 34-yard passing touchdown for a 21-0 lead near the end of the first quarter.
Then came a wild sequence to start the second quarter, starting with Friesner fumbling the ball in the red zone and the Bishops recovering on their own five-yard line. But on the Bishops first play, quarterback Brendan Bernath’s pass attempt was intercepted on an impressive one-handed effort from Berne Union’s Austin Snyder to give the Rockets the ball right back.
And then on Berne Union’s first play, Friesner took the hand off up the middle, appeared to be tackled, but spun out of it and kept running. He then appeared to be tackled for a second time but landed on the Rosecrans defender as he went to the ground and kept his balance, and finally sprinted across the goal line for a 15-yard touchdown for a 28-0 Rockets lead.
“He is so slippery,” Hurps said of Friesner. “He didn’t think he had his best game tonight, he thought he had a bad game at halftime, which says what his standards are. As a player he’s disappointed he fumbled, and usually he doesn’t get many big shots on him because he’s so elusive, he’s not a big back and he’s so quick and guys just can’t tackle him. He’s able to wiggle his way out and contort his body in so many different ways. You saw on that run, I thought he was down several times and somehow he made his way into the end zone.”
The Rockets led 49-0 at halftime and Bishop Rosecrans was not able to find success on offense until most of the starters on the Rockets defense were taken out in the second half. On its first possession of the half, Rosecrans drove 54 yards, helped by a 35-yard touchdown reception for Rex Haskinson off a screen pass from Bernath to get the Bishops on the board.
Berne Union answered with its final score of the game, a 31-yard touchdown pass from Nemeth to Amnah on fourth down with 2:39 left in the third quarter. Then on the Bishops next possession, they put together a 75-yard drive that ended with an impressive touchdown throw from Bernath to Weston Hartman, who just barely kept his toes in bounds along the side of the end zone for the touchdown.
Bernath finished the game 11 of 24 passing for 165 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, while Hartman led the team with five catches for 49 yards. Haskinson ran the ball 10 times for 20 yards and had three catches for 66 yards, while Garrett Pugh added three catches for 57 yards.
Now the Rockets move on to play the No. 7 seed River Pilots from Hannibal, who advanced with a 49-6 win over Monroe Central. Hurps said that they don’t know much about the Pilots, but they’ll start film study and preparation tomorrow.
“They’ve got some pretty good athletes on the perimeter,” he said. “Not a lot of gamebreakers, but they’re pretty deep up front. Defensively I think it will be hard to stop us, but they’ve played some good teams, their schedule has been tougher than what we’ve faced, I think. But we know that’s going to happen as we continue to win and hopefully, we can face tougher opponents each round and hopefully we continue to come out on top.”
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