EDGINGTON, Ill. — Excitement and expectations are always high at Rockridge.
The Rockets have enjoyed perennial football success for much of the last decade, making the playoffs in every season since 2010 and winning at least one playoff game in each of Sam Graves' first four years as head coach.
It's a trend they don't intend to buck any time soon.
"I feel like there’s kind of a standard around here," senior Nathan Parchert said. "We don’t want to be the first team in the last couple years to not make a playoff run. We’re going to work to the best of our ability to not let that happen."
There's plenty of reasons to be optimistic about more sustained Rocket success this season, and it starts with what figures to be a pretty dynamic offense.
The Rockets return several key pieces from a team that went 6-5 last season and averaged 34.3 points per game. Along with Parchert, who rushed for more than 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns last year, the Rockets also return dynamic quarterback Riley Fetterer.
Fetterer started his sophomore season as a wide receiver, but after an injury to quarterback Michael Griffin, Fetterer took the reins in Week 3, leading the Rockets back from a 20-0 deficit to win 32-20 over Bureau Valley.
He finished the year with over 2,400 yards from the quarterback position and 33 total touchdowns.
"I think he did some special things last year and no one was really prepared for that to happen," Graves said. "We knew he was going to be a good athlete but he sure made some special plays out there at quarterback.
Graves hopes with a year of experience, Fetterer can continue to grow in the position, but doesn't foresee his junior always playing quarterback. With Griffin healthy this year and a solid line led by senior Collin Schmidt, Graves expects to use several different sets and formations to utilize the skill he has in the backfield.
It could lead to some high scores and headaches for opposing defenses.
"It’s nice having Michael back after the injury last year. We have a lot of returning linemen back, a lot of skill up front so it should be fun," Fetterer said. "We can do a lot more things, be a lot more creative. They have that chemistry together and they’re experienced up front so we can put a lot of creative things together."
Defensively, the Rockets return six starters and expect that experience to be key throughout the season. Three of their five losses came by a combined 12 points, including a 28-20 loss to Fulton in the playoffs in a game the Rockets led at halftime.
It was a combination of things that led to those losses, things Graves hopes a year of experience can help prevent.
"With a few of our losses, including our last one, we definitely felt like we let them slip away," he said. "It wasn’t one of those things where it was a better team than us, we felt like we did things that beat ourselves like turnovers, penalties.
"You hope that year of experience can help you play a little better in key moments so those guys don’t feel like it’s too big for them."
If they do keep their playoff streak intact, the Rockets will be a well-tested postseason opponent. The already difficult Three Rivers Rock division gets even tougher with the addition of five-time state champion Sterling Newman.
"It makes the division pretty tough. It’s a solid, tough schedule," Graves said. "If you make the postseason, even if you’re 6-3, you’re going to be ready to feel like you can play with anybody."