Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2012, 8:00 pm

Old school vs. new school: Alleman, Rochester offenses are quite contrasting

Comment on this story

By Daniel Makarewicz, danmak@qconline.com

More photos from this shoot
Photo: Brett Roseman
Alleman senior running back Adam Hoogerwerf prepares for a hit during the Class 4A state quarterfinal at Evergreen Park. The Pioneers' option-style offense has been a staple of the program in recent memory.
Photo: Ted Schurter/The State Journal-Register
Rochester's Austin Green heads for the end zone for a first quarter touchdown against Harrisburg in the Class 4A state semifinal. The Rockets' up-tempo, spread formation has carried them to the state championship game for the third consecutive season.
Out of all the ways to describe how the Alleman football team operates on offense, senior running back Sean Wetherell chooses to say it is designed to grind it out.

Another statement he added seems appropriate, too.

"It's pretty old school," Wetherell said.

Built to control the flow of the game, the Pioneers' option-style offense is impressive for its effectiveness and rarity. What used to be a popular system gave way to the fast-paced spread offense that Rochester, which meets Alleman in Friday's Class 4A state championship game, has used during its run to state prominence.

In other words, the Rockets are new school.

"Our tempo is going to be fast," Rochester coach Derek Leonard said. "We want to score as many points as possible."

Since Leonard's tenure started seven years ago, the goal is to create a track meet.

"We want to apply pressure, and we want (the opponent) to feel uncomfortable," Leonard said. "We want to go fast, score a lot."

A frantic pace has Rochester seeking its third consecutive state title. Alleman is attempting to stop the Rockets' bid at history, hoping it can win a first-ever state championship by controlling the tempo and the clock.

Who can set the tone will be a major factor in this game considering the contrasting speeds and styles both teams want to play.

Alleman hopes to secure 8-minute minute drives like it did to seal a 23-7 win at Evergreen Park in the state semifinals.

On the other end, the Rockets hope for the 2-minute drill on every offensive series.

"Something's got to give," Leonard said. "It's a matter of who gives the most and who gets their way."

So far this season, Rochester has had little trouble getting its way. The Rockets average 45.4 points and 448.4 yards per game with an offense using five wide receivers on the pass and reads on the run. Only once have they failed to score at least 35 points in a game.

Leonard adapted the offense his father, Ken, used to win three state titles at Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin. The offensive philosophies between the two coaches are similar, but Derek added some wrinkles he learned as a player at Illinois College and as a Fairbury Prairie Central coordinator.

As one Rochester observer puts it, the system is "sophisticated."

"Kids love it," Leonard said. "It's like in basketball — going up and down the court."

In reaching the state title game for the third time in seven years, the Pioneers have done so with a system that preaches patience, execution and commitment. During Dave DeJaegher's tenure as the Alleman head coach, the three-back, option-style scheme has kept the program atop the Western Big 6 Conference and state landscape.

A solid gain in the Alleman offense is four yards, a total the team wants to get consistently.

"We are who we are," DeJaegher said. "We've got to go with it."

Still, the Pioneers are no offensive pushover. Alleman scores 33.8 points and tallies 327.8 yards per game. During the season, it eclipsed the 35-point mark eight times.

The only thing missing are the big plays that Rochester prides itself on getting.

"We go up the middle, run hard," Alleman senior quarterback John Tracey said. "We've got to do what we've got to do. It might not be too entertaining."

Nor is it easy to duplicate.

"We can't run that offense in practice," Leonard said. "But they can't do what we do."

Alleman would not want to use the spread anyway.

"Absolutely not," Wetherell said. "With the success we've had, why change anything?"

That's the definition of old school.