Two of the best quarterbacks – not only in 4A but the entire state – faced each other in the 4A title game on Friday. The SMB Wolfpack feature arguably the state’s top recruit in Jalen Suggs. Rocori countered with…
Two of the best quarterbacks – not only in 4A but the entire state – faced each other in the 4A title game on Friday. The SMB Wolfpack feature arguably the state’s top recruit in Jalen Suggs. Rocori countered with a great signal-caller in his own right – Jack Steil. Which defense was able to deal with the quarterback position best would go a long way determining a champion.
Both defenses were outstanding, but like all great players, both quarterbacks had their moments.
Suggs vs. Rocori’s defense
It was clear early on that Rocori’s strategy was to make Suggs beat them with his arm. They started the game, rushing just three guys. With ample amounts of time, Suggs and the offense went right down the field on the Rocori defense.
After the opening touchdown drive, the Spartans’ defense was making just enough plays to keep SMB out of scoring range. Suggs picked up nine yards on the ground on a second and ten, but then his throw into the flat lost two yards, forcing a punt.
Suggs and the offense put together a beautiful drive the third time they touched the ball – with Rocori rushing just three or at the most four. Once SMB got into the red zone, the Spartans came with a blitz, and Suggs over-threw his receiver, and Tucker Haakonson picked off the over-throw.
Near the end of the half, Suggs nearly burned the defense for a big play. A bad snap forced SMB into a third and long. Suggs almost picked up the first down with his feet off Rocori’s soft, prevent style defense.
Coming out in the second half, Suggs had a hitch in his stride – likely from a tackle late in the first half. With his mobility not where he needed it, SMB went to a power running game. He was unable to work his scrambling magic and was sacked twice in a row to force another punt.
While the Wolfpack was successfully relying on a power running game, Suggs did pick up a big chunk of yardage. Facing a third and ten, Suggs got outside and picked up nineteen yards. The conversion allowed Suggs to rely on his running backs to finish the drive and tie the game.
Continuing to keep the SMB quarterback from hurting them with his legs, Suggs was able to put his team ahead in overtime with a throw to the outside to Terry Lockett.
The ‘make Suggs throw’ strategy ultimately worked. He was efficient through the air, but although a couple of big sacks skewed his rushing yards, Suggs rushed for fourteen yards on fourteen carries.
Steil vs. SMB’s defense
Early on, the Wolfpack defense was allowing short completions but were tackling well.
The SMB defense seemed to be keying on Steil and forcing Rocori to beat them with their running backs. Although he didn’t have many yards early, Steil drove his team down the field for the tying touchdown the second time the offense touched the ball.
SMB continued to allow short passes didn’t let Steil get out of the pocket. In the second half, Steil would get loose.
With the ability to hand off, keep the ball, or pass, the Rocori offense came out of the locker room with a good game plan. Steil kept the defense off balance by first handing the ball off and the next play pulling the ball back and picking up twenty yards. SMB continued to keep the Rocori receivers in front of them, but Steil did beat the defense deep one time. It set up a first and goal and later a Steil touchdown run.
Rocori’s other weapons did most of the damage to end the fourth quarter.
On the biggest play of the game, Rocori had to score in overtime to keep the game alive. They faced a fourth and fifteen. Steil rolled to his right and threw a strike to Jayden Philippi right at the goal line for the touchdown. Going for two and the win, Steil – out of a swinging gate formation threw a perfect pass – just out of the reach of Suggs – to Andrew Anderson for the winning two-point conversion and a 22-21 overtime win.