Rockets make changes in preparation for 2019 season


Rockets are excited about a new offense and returning players

LOWELLVILLE, OHIO (WKBN) – Following a disappointing 3-7 season in 2018, Rockets head coach Doug Velasquez decided to shake things up a bit.  The changes first started in their off-season work-outs, and then in their offensive approach.

“After being here for a few years and understanding that we share a lot of athletes (basketball, track, etc.) this off-season we kind of changed up our conditioning.  We did two days a week of really hard, hard lifting and some conditioning.  We focused on trying to get everybody in there two days a week and we did a really great job of it.  We got a lot stronger for sure,” Velasquez explained.

“We didn’t go every day, we focused on rest days, but we really hit it hard,” senior running back/linebacker Vinny Kacir remarked.  “We got a lot of our guys in there.  We don’t have a lot of guys, so it was important for us then to get everybody in there.  I think we had a good off-season.”

“Then when we got to this summer we really buckled down on getting our offense installed,” Velasquez continued.  “We brought in Gary Muntean who played at Wooster, where he set 14 quarterbacking records there, so we brought him in and in June installed the offense.  And we have done a nice job picking up the offense, to be honest.”

The Rockets new offense will be led by junior quarterback Cole Bunofsky with freshman Vinny Ballone targeted to also get some playing time.  Bunofsky saw quite a bit of action last year as a sophomore.

“He (Bunofsky) got enough reps to get his feet wet and give us some experience coming back, so this summer it’s been Cole Bunofsky and Vinny Ballone, who’s a freshman and a really good athlete, and he’s (Ballone) picking up the offense and getting his timing on passes down real well.  So right now it’s been the two of them splitting reps and I really like our two quarterbacks,” Velasquez stated.

“We are still going to pound the ball, there’s no doubt about it,” Velasquez said.  “But we want to throw the ball a little bit more, we’re spread out a little bit more.  We’re going to use an H-back a lot of the time, instead of a tight end.  We’re just going to do some different things with them.”

One of the big reason’s Velasquez is so optimistic about his team this year is the return of Vinny Kacir.  Kacir was lost last season when he broke his collar bone during summer baseball.  He is back at full strength and Velasquez is going to rely heavily upon him.

“Having him back is just a world of difference,” Velasquez exclaimed.  “Offensively, defensively, he runs the ball on offense and gets us set on defense.  So Vinny Kacir being back, you’re going to want to watch him for sure.”

“Last season was the worst thing ever,” Kacir said with a laugh.  “I’ve been waiting for this for over a year now, so it’s nice to get back out here.”

Also back for the Rockets is junior lineman Fransico Ocasio-Rivera (5’10, 260) who hurt his ACL in the second game last year against Windham.  He’s back and strong.  Senior running back/linebacker Mike Donatelli will also play a leadership role on the Rockets team this year and Velasquez is expecting a big year from him.

Velaquez added that he has several talented freshman players that he expects to see on the field this year too, “Vinnie Balone, Brady Bunofsky, Anthony Lucente are freshman and all of those guys will probably see some time.  So there will be several guys to watch this year.”

As far as what the Rockets will need in order to have a successful season?  Like most teams, it will come down to the line play and staying healthy.

“Right now we have seven of those guys, with Kyle Miller who is a big body that will be another H-back.   He’s a big body who has been playing tackle for us so we have seven linemen but with him it’s eight.  They are all playing different positions and are starting to really jell.  I think if our offensive line can continue to develop like they have been, our running backs, receivers and quarterbacks are going to do a great job.  If the offensive line comes together quickly, we’ll be ok,” Velasquez said.

“I think we are definitely more prepared to handle the league this year than years before.  I like our match-ups this year,” Kacir stated.

The Rockets kick off the 2019 season on Friday August 30th when they travel to Lisbon.  They will begin MVAC play on September 20th when they host neighboring rival Springfield.

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