By Mark Maxwell
The Rochester Rockets coach Derek Leonard won his fourth consecutive state title and twentieth consecutive playoff game on Friday night at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Illinois, defeating the Geneseo Maple Leafs, 16-8.
Geneseo was looking for their fifth title overall as their last championship came in 1982. They came close in 2009, finishing on the wrong end of a 41-7 drubbing in a game with Metamora.
After a pair of interceptions and both teams jostling for field position, Rochester Rockets senior running back Drake Berberet rumbled his way into the end zone midway through the second quarter and capped it off with a two-point conversion to take an 8-0 lead. Berberet grazed the pylon with his outstretch arm after bowling over several would-be tacklers on his bruising rushing attempt.
Geneseo dominated opponents in the third quarter this season, posting a 147-14 combined score. However, the third frame started with a near scare for Geneseo as a Rochester kickoff grazed a Maple Leaf and was almost recovered by a Rocket. A battle for field position ensued, highlighted by several turnovers. Geneseo quarterback and defensive back Alex Craig reeled in two of three Rochester interceptions while Geneseo lost a fumble of their own during the second half.
The changing momentum kept things interesting, but no one would score again until Drake Berberet ran it up the middle for his second score of the day. Rockets quarterback Robbie Kelley ran in another two-point conversion, extending the lead to 16-0.
Maple Leafs senior quarterback Luke Snyder completed a 45-yard play action pass to junior wide receiver Drew Himmelman to highlight a seven play, 67-yard scoring drive just before the six minute mark in the fourth quarter. Himmelman hauled in a fade pass to the right corner of the end zone to complete the two point conversion and close the gap to 16-8.
On a critical third-and-eight play with 3:16 remaining, Berberet came up big again and moved the chains for the Rockets by tearing off a 21-yard run. He added one more first down rush in the clock-eating drive as Geneseo coach Larry Johnsen stood helplessly by with only one timeout remaining. He couldn't stop the clock and Rochester claimed their fourth state title in as many years.