It’s been nearly 100 years since The Rock last played a football game in the state of Massachusetts. That comes to an end on Saturday as they travel to Worchester for the first round of NCAA Div. II playoffs against Assumption.
The Rock is one of three PSAC schools to make the playoffs and is now in their fourth straight year making it. But this time they’ll have a tougher start than they have in their previous trips to the dance.
Assumption has had their best season since 2017, when they last made the NCAA playoffs. That year they fell to The Rock’s bitter foe, Indiana (Pa.). Ironically, IUP is the top seed in the tournament this season.
There is going to be a number of things that The Rock is going to have to do to shut down the Greyhounds, but head coach Shawn Lutz feels that the game may turn into a defensive battle.
“We feel like we’ve been battle tested, but every little thing matters and there are no excuses,” Lutz said. “We want to get up there and get to work and come back with a win in time to be home for thanksgiving.”
The Rock will be tasked with shutting down their all-purpose quarterback, Jake Cady, who is responsible for 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns. But he’ll be going against a pass rush that has gotten to the quarterback 32 times this season.
The Rock has also held their opponents to average of 263 yards a game. But the furthest that they have traveled before they go to play in Massachusetts was to West Chester this season.
The Rock will also have some key weapons this week. Signal caller, Noah Grover, will return to the field after he was held out last week. Running backs Chris D’Or and Isiah Edwards were both held out along with star receiver, Kyle Sheets. Then Max Maciejewski went down halfway through the game.
Brayden Long stepped in for Grover in his first collegiate start.
“Brayden did a great job against one of the top defenses in the conference, but at this stage it’s going to be very important to have Noah back, because he’s been the guy all season,” Lutz said. “But we know we have Brayden if something were to happen.”
While Lutz was impressed with Long’s performance, he’s excited to have Grover back this week as they head into a do or die game.
This will be Grover’s second playoff game, with his first coming against Notre Dame College one year ago. Grover was sacked five times and threw three interceptions. Now he’ll have a chance to write a new story.
But according to Lutz, it is going to be important to get the entire offense going. Especially with Maciejewski out and Sheets being a game time decision.
The Rock will start dancing and they will hope to extend their season with a win a on the road. The playoff game kicks off at noon.
“28 teams in the country are dancing, and we’re lucky enough to be one of them and we don’t care where we’re playing as long as we’re playing,” Lutz said.