Slippery Rock High School rolls to another unbeaten regular season
The Slippery Rock High School football team dropped down a classification this season.
Yet the Rockets had to elevate their game.
It worked throughout the regular season as the squad moved from Class AAA to AA and produced similar results to last season. The Rockets went 10-0 and captured the District 10 Region 3 title at 7-0. Slippery Rock went 10-0 and 7-0 last year in Region 5. General McLane ended the team’s season in the D-10 playoffs.
“From top to bottom, it was a tougher move for us,” Slippery Rock coach Brendan Hathaway said. “We went into a region with some great programs like Hickory, Sharon and Greenville. We knew we were going to be in battles every week, and that’s what it really has been like.”
The Rockets hope to unseat Hickory, which was won the past three D-10 Class AA crowns. Slippery Rock posted a 14-7 victory over the Hornets in region play.
“Hickory has a great program. Hickory played South Fayette last year and lost 23-20 (in the PIAA Western Final),” Hathaway said. “If we’re lucky enough to see them again, it’ll be another battle.”
Slippery Rock’s strength is on the ground. Teams have had trouble trying to contain the Rockets’ triple option rushing attack.
“Our offensive line does a great job,” Hathaway said. “We don’t throw the ball very often. In our first nine games, I think we threw it nine times. Running the ball is where it all starts.”
Quarterback Jake Whitmer leads the attack. He’s carried the ball 102 times for 716 yards and 14 touchdowns.
“Jake does a great job taking what the defense gives us,” Hathaway said. “He’s a coach’s son. He’s been playing quarterback for five years in our system. He just does an unbelievable job.”
When Whitmer gives up the football, he has several players who can take the ball and exploit defenses. Travis Lauster has carried the ball 88 times for 651 yards and 11 TDs. Ryan Lauster, Jared McDowell and Trent Porter all have rushed for more than 400 yards as well.
“They all bring something a little bit different,” Hathaway said. “Trent and Ryan are the speed guys. Travis and Jared get the tough yards. Jake is the brains behind the operation. He’s not the fastest or quickest, but he takes advantage of the openings the defense gives us.”
Other players get opportunities as well.
“On any given play, three different guys can be carrying the ball. We like to spread it out. We’ll never have that 1,000-yard rusher,” Hathaway said. “We had one game this year where we had 17 different kids carry the ball. It’s not something we try to do, but we like to get different players involved.”
Defensively, Slippery Rock has limited teams to 10.5 points per contest.
“Our coaches do a great job preparing these guys. We have disciplined and smart guys who do well in the classroom and community,” Hathaway said. “I think we have gotten better every week since our first scrimmage.
“We’re relatively healthy. At this time of year, when playoff football starts, it comes down to what team wants it the most. I feel pretty good about where we are.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer.