Curt Rienas won’t have to look far when he talks to his Romeo football team about taking advantage of opportunities.
He’ll have two perfect examples sitting in front of him in juniors Jayden Roberson and Jaxon Radtke.
“The first play of the game for each of them, they made impact plays,” the Romeo coach said after the Bulldogs defeated Dakota 14-10 in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division opener for each school.
Roberson replaced starter Logan Rolfs at quarterback late in the fourth quarter when Rolfs cramped up and he completed a 36-yard pass to Kasey Harrison on third down and 12 from the Romeo 20-yard line. That helped the Bulldogs take some valuable minutes off the clock.
Moments later it was Radtke’s turn in the spotlight. Dakota had moved into Romeo territory on a 27-yard pass from Ethan Hamby to Quest Williams. An intentional grounding penalty moved the Cougars back to their 48, and on the next play Radtke forced a fumble that Dakota recovered on its own 32. The Cougars eventually turned the ball over on downs and Romeo ran out the final 40 seconds to improve to 3-0 overall.
“We’ve been challenging them to show what they have in practice and (Radtke) had a great week of practice,” Rienas said. “I probably should have put him in a little earlier. He’s a great pass rusher. They both stepped in and did the job they were supposed to do.”
Rolfs also made a strong showing at quarterback. He engineered a 14-play, 86-yard drive on the opening possession of the game that consumed 9:16. The drive was capped by a five-yard run by Joey Kostrubiec. The score was set up by a 13-yard pass from Logan Rolfs to his twin brother Luke.
“We have a pretty good connection,” Logan Rolfs said with a smile.
Logan Rolfs’ most impressive completion might have been the 73-yard scoring strike to Brady Goralski less than two minutes after Dakota tied the game on a 30-yard pass from Hamby to Williams late in the second quarter.
“The touchdown pass was his fourth read,” Rienas said. “A year ago, there was no way he’d go through four progressions. This time he did and found the guy who was open.”
Rolfs said the experience he gained starting as a junior has paid off.
“Playing a couple games at quarterback is a big key,” he said. “You get to see the defense. I just feel more comfortable back there this year. I thought we worked really good tonight.”
There was some controversy surrounding Romeo’s 15-14 upset of Dakota in the state playoffs last season. That was in the back of the Bulldog players’ minds.
“We wanted to show that we could beat them straight up,” Logan Rolfs said. “We’ll take a win in the MAC Red whenever we can get it. Our offensive line played really well tonight and all of our backs were hitting their keys.”
Rienas said that the Bulldogs’ mindset has led to their early success after going 1-4 in the division last year.
“It’s the competitive demeanor of our kids,” Rienas said. “We’re not big in stature but we have a lot of scrappy kids who just want to win.”
Dakota coach Greg Baur felt that missed opportunities cost the Cougars.
“In the fourth quarter we had the ball twice inside their 20 and we came away with only three points (on a 33-yard field goal by Anthony Markovski),” he said. “That was the turning point. We forced a turnover and they shanked a punt. We had our chances but didn’t convert. Give credit to Romeo. They did what they had to do and we didn’t.
“They’re a good team and we think we’re a good team, but you can’t have as many penalties and third and a millions as we did tonight. Defensively, we played really well but gave up the big play right before half.”
One of Dakota’s biggest weapons in the game was the punting of Aiden Mata, who had several punts of 50 yards or more to pin Romeo deep in its own territory.
Things never get easy in the MAC Red.
Dakota will try to get its first division win next week when it hosts Chippewa Valley.
“We have to put this behind us and focus on that game,” Baur said.
CHIPPEWA VALLEY 28, EISENHOWER 21
Cephus Harris rushed for three touchdowns and Ryan Schuster passed to Zack Ernat for another to lead Chippewa Valley. Harris scored on runs of 86, 15 and 51 yards as the Big Reds won their MAC Red opener and improved to 3-0 overall. Schuster’s pass to Ernat covered 12 yards. Tarik Ahmetbasic kicked four PATs.
FITZGERALD 34, CLINTONDALE 12
Senior Troy West rushed for 203 yards and senior Trey West rushed for 136 plus a 65-yard fumble return to lead Fitzgerald. Senior Ty Reese led Fitzgerald’s defense with eight tackles and three blocked passes. The Spartans are 3-0.
L’ANSE CREUSE 9, LAKE SHORE 7
Stephfon White ran one yard for a touchdown and Luke Butkis kicked a 20-yard field goal to lift L’Anse Creuse to the MAC Blue victory. The Lancers are 1-0 and 2-1.
— to www.macombdaily.com