The Rock Port Blue Jays finished their 2019 season with four wins, and they could equal that total by defeating the East Atchison Wolves Sept. 25 in Tarkio, Missouri.
Rock Port comes into the game with a 3-1 record following a 50-28 win against North-West Nodaway. Now, the Blue Jays enter the toughest part of their schedule, starting with an away game at rival East Atchison. Rock Port coach Dalton Jones and his team still remember a 54-8 loss from a year ago.
“A loss like that really hurts and it’s an awful feeling,” Jones said. “I feel like our guys know what it’s like, and they want to make sure they don’t get that feeling again.”
The Blue Jays are led on offense by senior running back Joey Herron, who finished with 125 yards rushing and three total touchdowns against North-West Nodaway. He is now up to 578 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns on the season and has surpassed 3,000 career rushing yards.
Sophomore quarterback Aidan Burke stepped up in a big way, filling in for injured starting quarterback Micah Makings. Burke had 188 yards passing and four total scores, including a late pick six. Jones has confidence in his young quarterback after his performance.
“What’s great is he’s mature for his age, and he's truly a tough kid,” Jones said. “We really trust him and Micah both to play that spot.”
Sophomore running back Phillip Herron added 55 yards rushing and a score, while senior tight end Trey Peshek had 122 yards receiving. Having a balanced side on offense is a large part of Rock Port’s success.
“We can mix up our play calls and keep guys fresh all game, which is huge for us at this stage of our development,” Jones said. “I think as we keep moving forward, it will be big for us down the stretch.”
On defense, junior linebacker Colten Stevens has been the cornerstone for the Jays, totalling 43 tackles. Peshek and Burke both have three interceptions each to lead the secondary.
Rock Port will need more of the same from its defensive group against a high-powered East Atchison offense. The Wolves will come into the game sitting at 1-1, having their last two games canceled due to COVID-19.
They are led on offense by dual-threat quarterback Josh Smith, who has 257 yards passing and three touchdowns through two games. He also has 130 yards on the ground and three rushing touchdowns. The Blue Jays’ ball hawk corners could take advantage as Smith has thrown three interceptions. Junior running back Kaylin Merriweather has four touchdowns on the ground, while senior tight end Ian Hedlund has 122 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
The Wolves will be one of the tough teams that Rock Port will have to face in the latter half of the season. Back-to-back state champions Mound City, and the 2019 runner up, Southwest Livingston, both await the Blue Jays in late season match ups. Jones knows his team needs to stay focused in order to compete.
“Each week is a new opponent tougher than the week before,” Jones said. “It’s easy to pat yourself on the back, but come Monday, it’s back to work and we got to go 1-0 again.”