Warriors Look to Keep the Positive Momentum Rolling


ROCHESTER — After making its first district crossover appearance since 2012 a year ago, and finishing third in the 2A Evergreen Conference after three combined wins the two years previous, the Rochester football team is looking to keep the positive momentum rolling into 2022. 

Despite losing a good chunk of their offensive production and most of its backfield in quarterback Landon Hawes and tailback Talon Betts, the Warriors are optimistic about the culture they’ve built in head coach AJ Easley’s third season as head coach. 

“I like our size, I think we’ll be able to lean on guys,” Easley said. “We talked about it three years ago, how we wanted to build this team, and now you’re starting to see it, especially inside. The attitude’s changed a little bit, our first step is always forward, we’re always looking to punch people in the mouth. Three years ago, they didn’t really know and there was hesitation, but now they play hard and fast and our big guys have listened.”

The Warriors were happy to make some history, playing in just its third playoff game since 2002, but now the expectations have changed. Rochester wants to get there every year, and start making runs instead of going one-and-done. 

Getting that experience last year, winning a dramatic Kansas tiebreaker to earn the EvCo’s third seed before losing to Hockinson, was huge for Easley’s guys. 

“It was good because we saw what that next level is,” he said. “We’re fairly lucky because we get to see strong teams in our league, so we see it, but it motivated some kids throughout the offseason. It was good to get there, but it’s not enough.”

The first step this season is finding new leadership in the form of some familiar faces. 

Though Hawes and Betts are gone, the Warriors return an experienced line that put in work in the offseason. A much-improved Warrior defense returns seven starters from a year ago. 

On both sides of the ball, Easley singled out Brady Baird, a two-way standout, as someone who has stepped up to the plate. 

“We might not have that one guy that can do it all, but we have a whole pack of guys that can do different things,” Easley said. “We have four seniors that are going to play in the backfield. You have a bunch of guys that are going to help out at a bunch of different roles.”

The Warriors open the 2022 season against Seton Catholic on the road Sept. 2. Rochester defeated the Cougars 49-8 last season.