ROOTSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The Rovers seek to reach the post-season for a sixth consecutive year this fall.

Coach Chris Knopick begins his second season at the helm of the Rootstown football program. He was named the head coach in March 2021.

“Having a full year to build relationships with our players and develop the type of comradery we need to become the best team we can has been crucial in our development,” he said.

This summer, the Rovers will look to replace their First-Team All-League quarterback Brandan Nicholas (1568 yards, 52.5% (117-223), 13 TDs). Senior Luke DeAngelis and junior Ryan Piscitani (37 passing yards) will compete for the starting signal caller spot. Rootstown also lost their top two receivers in the Birkett brothers (Donny and Xavier). Donny hauled in 50 receptions for 788 yards and scored 9 times. Xavier caught 21 passes for 268 yards and 3 scores.

Coach Knopick points to his line and running backs as the strength of the offense.

“We return six players who started at some point upfront including All-District performers Linden White and Drew Nero, as well as All-State Tony Karp. We also return two running backs in Cody Coontz (847 rushing yards, 9 TDs) and Branden Bobbs (457 rushing yards, 266 receiving yards). We’ll look for them to shoulder the load of touches moving into 2022,” he said.

Through the first six games of the 2021 season, Rootstown allowed an average of 16.2 points. Over the course of their final five contests, the Rovers permitted their opponents to score an average of 32.8 points which included their playoff loss to South Range (45-0).

“Much like on offense, the strength of our team should be our [defensive] line,” indicates Knopick. “We return three starters in [Tony] Karp, [Drew] Nero and [Linden] White. We also have a multitude of players who have contributed up front [a year ago]. We need to reload at linebacker and in the secondary. Those [positional groups] will be anchored by [Cody] Coontz at linebacker and [Cohen] Schlaubach at defensive back.

Rootstown will begin the 2022 campaign at home against Crestwood.

Rootstown Rovers
Fast Facts
Head Coach: Chris Knopick, 2nd season (5-6)
2021 Record: 5-6 (1-3), 4th place in PTC
Last 5 Years: 66.7% (36-18)
Home Field: Robert C. Dunn Field
League: Portage Trail Conference – County Division
Base Offense: Spread Multiple
Base Defense: 4-2-5

2021 Team Stats
Scoring Offense: 22.8
Scoring Defense: 21.6
Total Offense: 286.2
Rushing Offense: 139.4
Passing Offense: 146.8
Total Defense: 278.8

2021 Individual Leaders
Passing: Brandan Nicholas – 1568 yards, 52.5%, 13 TDs
Rushing: Cody Coontz – 847 yards, 4.9 avg, 9 TDs
Receiving: Donny Birkett – 788 yards, 15.8 avg, 9 TDs

2021 Results
South Range 45 Rovers 0*
Rovers 42 Western Reserve 8
Mogadore 29 Rovers 12
Garfield 34 Rovers 14
Warren JFK 48 Rovers 7
Rovers 42 St. Thomas Aquinas 0
Southeast 14 Rovers 7
Rovers 24 Liberty 20
Rovers 47 Field 21
Rovers 25 Champion 14
Crestwood 28 Rovers7
*Post-season

2022 Schedule
Aug. 19 – Crestwood
Aug. 26 – at Champion
Sept. 2 – Field
Sept. 9 – at Pymatuning Valley
Sept. 16 – at Conneaut
Sept. 23 – St. Thomas Aquinas
Sept. 30 – at Warren JFK
Oct. 7 – at Grand Valley
Oct. 14 – Southeast
Oct. 21 – at Mogadore