ROCK VALLEY, Iowa | Early in the first quarter of Friday night’s Class 2A District 1 football game, long before the downpour that caused a half-hour delay, Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley’s defense put up a deluge of its own.
Senior middle linebacker Austin Rozeboom huddled up his defensive teammates, who held MOC-Floyd Valley to just one yard after a 70-yard drive to the B-H/RV 5-yard line. The goal-line stand set the tone for the No. 1-ranked defending Class 2A state champions, which improved to 6-1 (4-1 District 1) following the 40-13 win.
“Austin made plays when he had to when they were in the red zone at the five,” said Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley Coach Cory Brandt. “He had a tackle for a loss or a tackle at the line of scrimmage and I know he was in on others.”
Rozeboom, the Sioux City Journal’s Siouxland Athlete of the Week, registered two solo tackles, seven tackle assists, a solo tackle for a loss and an assisted tackle for a loss in B-H/RV’s fifth consecutive win.
The 17-year-old son of Kelly and Gina Rozeboom of Rock Valley was last year’s leader with 73.5 tackles. He heads into this Friday’s key district game at No. 4 Sioux Center (7-0, 5-0) with team bests of 33.5 tackles and five solo tackles for loss.
“We all came in and talked and got our heads in the right place and kept telling each other they were not going to score on that drive,” said Rozeboom, who also returned an interception 40 yards for touchdown in a 62-14 district win over Sheldon on Sept. 15.
“It felt pretty good getting that goal-line stand. It gave us the satisfaction of knowing if we put our minds to it, we can stop someone no matter how big they are or how hard they want to go in. We matched their physicality and we stopped them.”
Rozeboom leads by example as the team’s captain. A three-time Class 2A state wrestling qualifier, Rozeboom uses that same mentality while going for tackles in the Nighthawks’ multiple-front defense which has offered different looks each week.
Brandt said there’s times when Rozeboom has no regard for his 5-foot-8, 175-pound frame when he hunts the tackle. It cost him a game as he suffered a concussion while making a tackle on kickoff coverage in a 56-0 district blanking of Pocahontas Area because he didn’t play the following Friday in a 55-6 win over Cherokee.
“I was taught to go 100 percent every play, play for your brothers and no matter what happens, do your best,” said Rozeboom. “You don’t want to look at a game later in the week and wonder what would have happened if I had gone harder there. Two weeks ago I had a concussion on a special teams play. Some of that stuff goes into your head, but as the game went on, it left my mind. I was back to my normal self, playing hard every play.”
“He’s a kid that goes absolutely hard all the time,” said Brandt. “He goes downhill hard. He’s not huge by any means. He gets to the football fast as anyone I have coached. He has no fear. He just goes and makes the play. Against M-OC, he played hard, but I didn’t put him on special teams because I know how hard he can go. It’s fun to watch how he goes so fast. That’s how he plays football.”
Brandt said Rozeboom simply has a nose for the football. He’s part of a rotation of six linebackers who trigger a defense that allows 12.1 points, has forced 23 turnovers (10 interceptions, 23 fumble recoveries) and averages 209.4 total yards.
Four of the Nighthawks’ top five tackle leaders are linebackers. Junior inside linebacker Brayton Van Kekerix is second with 32 tackles, while the group also includes junior outside linebacker Billy Rankin (26 tackles, 1 interception, 1 fumble recovery), junior ILB Beau Solberg (20.5 tackles, 1 interception, 1 fumble recovery), junior OLB Elliot Van Kekerix (18.5 tackles, 1 fumble recovery) and senior OLB Jaden Den Boer (10 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries).
“They challenge each other,” said Brandt. “They’re one of my best linebacker corps from the standpoint of how hard they go. They’re fun to watch and they’re all great kids. Austin feeds off them and they feed off him.”
Dalton Schreiner, Sioux Center.... The senior running back rushed 23 times for 170 yards and three touchdowns as the Warriors edged Sheldon 41-40.
Corrina Timmermans, Unity Christian.... The junior outside hitter collected 47 kills and 27 digs as the Knights went 3-2 at the Kaemingk-Kooima Classic.
NOTE: Nominations (from coaches only) can be made by contacting the Journal’s sports department at 1-800-397-9820, ext. 4206.