The Rolla football team will host Parkway Central for their second State Quarterfinal in school history on Friday, Nov. 10.
While this game is one of the biggest in the history of Rolla football, head coach Jon Franks says his team has tried to treat it like any other week.
"They're very down to Earth and they've done a really good job of, I don't wanna say erasing, but putting the District Championship game away to celebrate at a later time and just get back to our normal routine," said Franks. "Obviously, these things are different, but they've done a really nice job of preparing this week like it was any other week. I'm really excited about how they've handled themselves in that facet. They've not really tried to let this get to a point where it's bigger than it actually is. There's going to be a time to celebrate, it's just not right now."
Parkway Central has been a strong team on both sides of the ball all season long. Offensively, the Colts have scored 39.6 points per game this season and have only been held under 30 twice this season, once in a 20-7 win over Parkway North to open the second and again in a 36-23 loss to Ladue Horton Watkins. That offense has come from a great rushing attack led by Noah Witter, who has rushed for 1,111 yards and 13 touchdowns. Their quarterback, Patrick Dill, has thrown for 1,458 yards and 22 touchdowns with just two interceptions thanks to a strong duo at wide receiver. DeAndre Campbell and Arther Green each have over 500 yards with Campbell catching 12 touchdowns and Green adding eight. Green has also rushed for two touchdowns.
"Well definitely their run game is very good, they've got a really nice back," said the Rolla head coach. They've got two really good receivers that they like to get the ball to and they just do a good job of maintaining the big play, which obviously for us this year, that has been a concern for us at times. These last few weeks we've played very well on defense, so hopefully we keep repeating that."
Coach Franks said the key to Rolla continuing their recent defensive success is the fact that his defense continues to get more comfortable in their scheme.
"Well one, the guys have gotten really comfortable, they've seen just about everything you can see," said coach Franks. "They've gotten really familiar with our system. Obviously last year, we had a new system, plus we kind of changed defensive systems towards the end of the year, so now we're finally carried through all the way through and it helps."
Defensively, Parkway Central has shut down opponents all season. They've allowed just 11 points per game this season. During Districts, they allowed double digit points just once, when they allowed Riverview Gardens to score 18 points in the District Championship game. Coach Franks and his staff were able to see the District Championship game in person, as the game was played a day after Rolla's so he's been able to get a feel for what they'll see on Friday night.
"(They are) just a well coached team," said Franks. "They do things really sound on defense, really sound on offense. They have some nice athletes and they do a really good job of getting the ball to the right people. It's just one of those things where we fully expect a very good game."
The Rolla offense that will look to score on the strong Colt defense has been an offensive juggernaut this season thanks to the leadership of senior quarterback Josh Pritchett. Rolla has scored 37 points per game this season, going over 50 points twice. Pritchett has thrown for 3,031 yards this season with 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, while rushing for another 1,664 yards and 24 touchdowns. Pritchett has rushed for over 100 yards in 11 of Rolla's 12 contests this season. Blaize Klossner has also been a huge piece of the offense with 1,138 receiving yards and nine scores to go along with 412 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. Rolla has four receivers with at least 500 yards receiving this season, with Jake Grooms, Davis Buhr and Tristan O'Neal joining Klossner in that club. Buhr suited up last week for the first time since a breaking his leg against Glendale, but he did not play. His status for the Quarterfinal is still to be determined. Coach Franks said that Rolla's success with or without Buhr will come down to execution.
"Well hopefully we can just execute. That's kind of what it comes down to is execution," said the Rolla head coach. "Obviously, any time anybody puts film on each other there's things there. They put on tape on us and they see stuff, but it ultimately comes down to execution and performance. That's what we're really hitting our guys on. We're not going to do anything really any different. We've got our same gameplan, same approach, same people, we just have to execute when we need to."
Rolla has the added benefit to this game being played on their home turf. Rolla has gone 4-1 at home this season and will look to continue to take advantage of their success in front of their home crowd.
"I think it's really nice for the community. The community is extremely supportive of our kids," said coach Franks. "Our kids just want to do Rolla proud, they want to put a good product on the field and they want to show off for their friends here at the school. So it's exciting, it's an exciting time. But again, we try to put the brakes on and hey, it's just another game and that's how we have to approach it."