BY DAN STICKRADT
ROCHESTER HILLS — In recent years, the question regarding OAA Red Division football is which school will boast the team that steps up and challenges perennial powers Lake Orion and Clarkston.
Two years ago, Rochester did the trick with a third-place finish and last year Troy Athens finished third in the conference. Who will it be in 2012?
Rochester hopes to fill the role again this season with an experienced team and a very talented junior class.
“Last year didn’t go the way we had hoped,” admitted fourth-year Rochester coach Erik Vernon. “We hope this season is more like 2010 when we made the playoffs. We like to think we have a chance to improve and finish in the top part of our league.”
The Falcons were plagued with injuries and suspensions last season and failed to have another winning season. Rochester finished a disappointing 4-5 overall but closed the 2011 campaign with three straight wins.
“We finished strong last season and we hope that can carry over into this season,” beamed Vernon. “We have a lot of talent on this team. We just need to go out there and prove it.”
Rochester, which did not have a winning season from 2000 through 2009, hopes to right the ship on more of a permanent basis.
“We need to be more consistent. Last year we did have injuries but the guys we had out there didn’t always get the job done. That’s football,” lamented Vernon. “This year we want to be more consistent. If we do that, then we should be one of the better teams in our league and make the playoffs.”
Rochester mad some switches the second half of last season which helped with the season-closing three-game win streak. Senior John Doroshewitz (6-foot-2, 190) was moved into the starting role at QB and thrived. He has improved his passing skills and should be a key ingredient for the Falcons this season.
With senior James Ward out with an injury, junior Demetrius Magee (5-10, 180) should become the featured back. Several other prospects also hope to gain carries this season.
Last season senior Manny Mendoza (6-3, 205) broke his hand in Week 3 and could no longer play receiver. He spent the rest of the season honing his defensive skills as a DB and eventually earned all-league status. Mendoza will be the primary target in Rochester’s air attack.
The offensive and defensive lines is where Rochester’s strength lies — literally. The Falcons have perhaps their biggest lines in the trenches in two decades and pound-for-pound will match up with most teams in the area.
Junior twins Shwan Shadaia (6-0, 205) and Shane Shadaia (6-0, 190) are two offensive linemen who will also fill in at defensive end and linebacker, respectively. Returning starters, Vernon said the Shadaia duo could have played varsity two years ago if it wasn’t for a large senior class.
“They like to hit and they have motors that don’t quit,” smiled Vernon.
Senior two-way lineman Peter Dusat (6-4, 230), a former hockey player, is also back, while senior newcomer Jimmy Harten (6-4, 235) are two of the behemoths on the interior. There are several other players checking in over 220 pounds that will gain minutes on the lines.
“We have some big boys, guys that are athletic and, mobile,” said Vernon. “It’s the biggest (line) I’m told, we’ve had here in a long time.”
Another addition will be senior Miles Dale, who is in his fourth season on the Falcons’ varsity soccer team. Dale, who has committed to Cincinnati for that sport, will be one of Rochester’s kicker and punters and might also experiment as a receiver or tight end.
Unlike the 2000s, where Rochester suffered through a decade-long coma, there is far more reasons of optimism in recent years.
“I think if we can remain healthy, then we could be a good team. But we have to remain healthy because we are not very deep in some areas,” noted Vernon. “We have a chance to better than last year. We have same good leaders and players with great motors. We have to (perform) on the field.”
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