Well-rounded roster has Rochester back on track
Thursday, August 26, 2021 | 6:01 AM
Gene Matsook did not waste much time righting the Rochester ship. And now the final destination is much more in focus.
Matsook, Rochester’s 22nd-year coach, led the Rams to a bounce-back season in 2020, going 7-2 and reaching the WPIAL Class A semifinals a year after winning just three games.
“When you’re down, you don’t want to be down long,” said Matsook. “We were down one year and got it right back up again. That’s the consistency we’ve had here at Rochester.
“The kids did a great job at winning the conference and getting to the semifinals. Hopefully we can take another step this year.”
A big reason for Rochester’s 2019 struggles was the amount of freshmen and sophomores Matosook was forced to put on the field. But last year, that group gained valuable experience and now, as juniors and seniors, they’re ready for more.
“Those kids got two years under their belts,” Matsook said. “They got thrown to the dogs as freshmen. Hopefully they take strides over the next year or two.”
One of those three-year starters plays a pretty important position. Parker Lyons, a junior, returns at quarterback.
“He’s a good athlete, a three-sport athlete,” Matsook said. “He’s very good at what he does. He can run and throw. He has that experience under his belt to take that next step and be more balanced.”
Matsook is really excited about the guys Lyons will get the ball to. Sal Laure will be the primary running back in his senior year.
“He’s quick and strong,” Matsook said. “He’s going to be a good one for us.”
Amaree Curry and a transfer from Beaver, senior Conner Martin, will help share the load at tailback. Jerome Mullins and J.D. Azulay return as starters at wideout, and Noah Haskins brings a big frame to the tight end spot.
“Those guys are big guns,” Matsook added.
The trenches are where Matsook is seeking the most growth. Rochester returns three offensive line starters in Daunte Welling, Adam Schurr and Tommy Perlick. Michael Norman and Dylan Yunt will battle for time up front, as will Noah Haskins’ brother, Jeremiah, and Parker Lyons’ brother, Logan.
“We’ve got to get up another notch, another level,” Matsook said of the offensive line. “We’ve got the people there. We’ve just got to get them up at a high level.”
Laure is the leader of the defense at linebacker after earning Big Seven Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2020.
“He runs to the ball and is a hard-hitting kid,” Matsook said. “He could play strong safety or linebacker. The kid’s got a nose for the ball. It’s good to have him back.”
Noah Haskins will anchor the defensive line alongside Welling, Curry and Schurr. Ryan Clark is back in the linebacker ranks. Mullins is a “lockdown” guy at corner, according to Matsook. He’ll get help from Azulay, a returning starter at safety.
Rochester, which will scrimmage in Week Zero instead of playing a full game, has a competitive Big Seven Conference to navigate.
“Week in and week out, there’s no easy one,” Matsook said. “You’ve got to be ready to go each week. The conference will be balanced, there’s no doubt about it.”
As a very young team in 2020, Rochester was no match for Jeannette in the WPIAL semifinals, falling short of the Class A title game with a 40-13 defeat. But now, with a full offseason, Matsook and the Rams have their typical, lofty expectations.
“Our skill is very good,” Matosok said. “I think we can be a good, well-rounded football team in all three phases this year.
“We’ve got a good nucleus of kids. We just have to put it all together.”
Coach: Gene Matsook
2020 record: 7-2, 6-1 in Class A Big Seven Conference
All-time record: 671-413-54
Date, Opponent, Time
9.3 New Brighton, 7:30
9.10 at Mohawk, 7
9.17 at Union*, 7
9.24 Burgettstown*, 7:30
10.2 at OLSH*, 7
10.8 Fort Cherry*, 7:30
10.15 Cornell*, 7:30
10.22 at Shenango*, 7
10.29 Northgate*, 7
Passing: Parker Lyons
18-43, 320 yards, 6 TD
Receiving: Jerome Mullins
10-250, 5 TD
Rushing: Rashawn Reid*
148-982, 14 TD
• Rochester has won eight WPIAL titles and three PIAA championships in its history.
• Matsook is the dean of Beaver County high school football coaches, with 36 years of coaching experience, 14 of which came as an assistant.
• The Rams have made the WPIAL Class A semifinals in three of the last five seasons and reached the title game in 2018, falling to Big Seven rival OLSH at Heinz Field.
• Rochester’s defense was the third-best in Class A and tops in the Big Seven Conference in 2020, allowing just 14.8 points per game.
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