Rocco, Serra Catholic have high expectations amidst unbeaten run

Sunday, October 10, 2021 | 11:01 AM

As a quarterback, Max Rocco appreciates the work of the center along the offensive line.

The Monroeville resident and senior starter at Serra Catholic has first-hand knowledge of what it takes to anchor the line from his time as a center for one year on the Gateway middle school team.

“In middle school, I never intended to play center. I wanted to play defense,” Rocco said. “I was just messing around in practice one day, snapping the football, and one of the coaches was like, ‘Hey, you’re pretty good. You’re going to play center.’ It was pretty interesting.”

Making the transition to Serra Catholic for ninth grade, Rocco wanted to see if he could make a change.

“I felt I could make a pretty decent quarterback if I gave it a shot,” Rocco said. “My offensive coordinator, Mick Betler, was a main person who got that going. He helped me a lot.”

And the rest is history. Rocco now is one of the top quarterbacks in the WPIAL. From a backup as a freshman to 1,000-yard passer Patrick Brennan to now a three-year starter for the undefeated Class 2A No. 2 Eagles, Rocco has his sights set on big things for himself and his team the rest of the season.

“Max is really dedicated to his craft,” Serra Catholic coach Jose Regus said. “He watches a lot of film and communicates with the offense coordinator on a lot of stuff. He is such a student of the game. He has grown into a real vocal leader on the field, keeping guys motivated. Of course, his play speaks a lot for him, too.”

Through six games this season, Rocco has thrown for 1,142 yards and 15 touchdowns for the 8-0 Eagles, who have two wins by forfeit.

He had his best statistical game of season Oct. 1 with 322 yards and three TDs in a 39-7 win over Shady Side Academy to open Allegheny Conference play.

“In the first half, I was a little shaky, but was able to calm down at halftime,” Rocco said. “The coaches told me to just relax. I came out confident in the second half, and I was able to make throw after throw. The offense was on point. It was clicking. It was the best we’ve looked so far this year.

“We felt we played really well against Shady Side, but we know we haven’t played our best game. We just have to focus on continuing to make progress.”

Rocco said that along with what the team can do down the stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs, he also is excited to see what the next few months brings in the college recruiting process.

He said he’s received looks from a number of Division II schools.

Serra Catholic finished last season 5-1 overall and 2-0 in Allegheny Conference games. Five of its games, including three conference matchups, were canceled because of covid-19.

The Eagles made the WPIAL quarterfinals before falling to Sto-Rox, 49-38.

“I wasn’t able to play in our first game last year because of exposure to covid,” Rocco said. “The season, it was a challenging thing to get through. It was stressful at times, but we were able to get through it. We were motivated to push through for each other. We love the game of football, and we did whatever it took to get on the field and win games.”

Rocco, in five games last year, threw for 1,102 yards and 15 touchdowns against just four interceptions.

This followed a sophomore season, his first as a starter, in which he threw for 1,321 yards and 10 touchdowns in 11 games as Serra went 6-5 and earned a trip to the WPIAL playoffs.

Rocco said he’s very appreciative of what his offensive line — a mix of key veterans and newcomers — has done to protect him in the passing game and open holes in the run game.

He also knows that Serra’s deep group of receivers, led by seniors Terrell Booth and Jayvon Holt, often make life difficult for opposing defenses to cover.

“They make me look good,” Rocco said. “They are really fast and athletic. It stresses out the defenses. They have to worry about three or four receivers who can make plays.”

Rocco also knows that a strong running game has been key to the team’s effort. Against Freeport, a 14-3 win in Week 4, the Eagles rushed 38 times for 189 yards and a touchdown.

Rocco, also a baseball standout of for the Eagles, always keeps an eye on how the Gateway football team does on Friday nights.

“I’ll often check up with a few people to see how things are,” he said. “I think they are going to make a run (in Class 5A).

“I’ve also worked with (Gateway coach) Don Holl a little bit the past three summers. He’s helped me with a number of things in my game, and I appreciate that.”

Rocco said he has benefited from additional work on the weekends with former Pitt head coach Walt Harris, who he met through a connection with Harris and Serra Catholic.

“He’s worked with me on how to become a smarter quarterback, reading defenses better, and a number of other things,” Roco said. “It’s been a lot of fun.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at or via Twitter .


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