La Salle-Peru’s Tre’von Hunter (No. 44) runs the ball during the Cavaliers’ 13-0 loss to Morris on Oct. 11. The Cavs (5-4) travel to Rochester (8-1) for a Class 5A first-round playoff game at 3 p.m. Saturday.
La Salle-Peru’s Tre’von Hunter (No. 44) runs the ball during the Cavaliers’ 13-0 loss to Morris on Oct. 11. The Cavs (5-4) travel to Rochester (8-1) for a Class 5A first-round playoff game at 3 p.m. Saturday. — Scott Anderson

The Rochester football program has been among the most dominant in the state over the last decade.

The Rockets have claimed seven Class 4A state championships in the last nine years and lost in the 4A semifinals last fall.

None of that intimidates La Salle-Peru.

“That’s in the past,” L-P senior linebacker Nathan Hachenberger said. “That’s not this year. I know they have a good record this year and we respect them as a team. They have a great coaching staff, obviously, but this year is this year. Other years don’t mean anything.”

While the No. 2-seeded Rockets (8-1) have had plenty of postseason success, the No. 15 Cavaliers (5-4) will experience the postseason for the first time in a decade when they travel to Rochester for a Class 5A first-round playoff game at 3 p.m. Saturday.

“Everybody starts 0-0 in the playoffs,” L-P coach Jose Medina said. “We’re happy we made it. We’re excited. All it takes is to have confidence and I think we have the confidence to go in there and do something good.”

COMPLEX OFFENSE

The Cavs have seen spread offenses this season, but they haven’t seen an offense as complex as Rochester’s.

The Rockets, who average 52.3 points per game and scored 55 points or more five times, use more than 30 different formations and use plenty of pre-snap motion. None of L-P’s other opponents used more than 12 formations.

“They’re a very good offense,” Medina said. “They like to move people around and try to make it into a guessing game to try to get an advantage.”

Hachenberger said the L-P defense is simplifying their strategy against the Rockets’ multiple formations.

“We’re not going to make it complicated,” Hachenberger said. “If there are three receivers, we’re going to do the same thing every time. If there are two, we’ll do the same thing.”

The Cavs hope to get into the backfield and make things difficult for Rochester quarterback Clay Bruno, who has completed 136-of-205 passes for 2,440 yards and 32 touchdowns with four interceptions.

His top target is Hank Beatty, who has caught 64 passes for 1,188 yards and 16 scores.

Bruno also is the team’s second-leading rusher with 305 yards and six touchdowns.

Jacob DuRocher has rushed for 1,246 yards and 17 TDs.

“We need penetration on the quarterback,” Hachenberger said. “In the two games we watched on film, the other teams did not put pressure on him. He sat back there comfortable, but I think with our line that shouldn’t be a problem.”

FINISHING DRIVES

The Cavs have not scored during the last three games, but Medina and quarterback Tyler Hartman said it’s simply a matter of finishing drives.

“We have to be more successful in the red zone,” Hartman said. “We’ve been finding the red zone these past few weeks, but we’re not executing in the red zone. That has really been the downfall the past three weeks.

“One big thing is ball security and not shooting ourselves in the foot with penalties and negative plays.”

Rochester coach Derek Leonard said the Rockets must handle L-P’s size and physical nature.

“Up front we’ve been good,” Leonard said. “We have some size and good depth there. We have to match their physicality and make them throw the ball.”

Leonard said the Rockets have seen a few teams that run a similar offense to L-P’s triple option over the years but not many.

This season, Leonard said the only team the Rockets have faced that run a similar offense is Jacksonville, which Rochester beat 71-31 in Week 3.

Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at kchlum@shawmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.