Rockwood has been the feel-good story in the area for the balance of the past six seasons.

After starting up a program, the Rockets have slowly implemented a foundation and are beginning to have success.

Tonight, the Rockets, the No. 2 seed in the District 5 Class A playoffs, face No. 6 seed Tussey Mountain in a semifinal playoff game at 7 p.m. at Berlin Brothersvalley High School.

Next season, they move to the WestPAC, which will finally enable them to play a local schedule. Second year co-coaches Adam Rullo, a Waynesburg College graduate, and former Johnstown Vo-Tech and St. Francis player Jonathan Hale have said scheduling has been one of the most difficult tasks at hand.

“Our athletic director has had to work hard,” Hale said. “We schedule teams from Maryland, West Virginia and other independents from Pennsylvania, but there’s not many of those left.”

With a new program and two young coaches, getting players noticed has been another obstacle. Hale has implemented a system that he hopes will lead to some recruiters finding their way to Somerset County.

“We really try to talk to the local media and get the kids stats out there, and we have the parents write letters of interest to schools,” he said. “At the end of their junior season we try and figure out who can play at college and prepare them academically. We also rely on word-of-mouth from other coaches. We hope that when coaches come into the area, other area coaches will point them our way as we would do for them. Not playing a local schedule hurts, because it’s hard for colleges to come see the kids.”

Last season, Rockwood had Jon Hay, who has continued his athletic and academic career at St. Francis. This year, the Rockets have what Hale considers another solid college prospect in Jeremy “Jake” Hay, a 5-foot-11, 225 pound linebacker. The senior leads the Rockets with 103 tackles, 11⁄2 sacks, an interception and three forced fumbles. As a junior, he registered 115 tackles, 41⁄2 sacks and three fumble recoveries. He earned all-Somerset County honors, runner-up as the county defensive MVP, and he also garnered team defensive MVP honors from the Southern Alleghenies Football Coaches Association.

Hale and Rullo have been working diligently to find a fit for their star pupil.

“We have sent out about 10 films and have gotten positive feedback from Juniata, Seton Hill, Waynesburg, St. Francis and Slippery Rock,” Hale said. “Playing at St. Francis, I just feel that he can definitely play at that level. He is the type of kid that never misses conditioning. If we have a workout, he’ll be there. He is very dedicated, and he likes learning the game. He is a very aggressive linebacker and he’s fundamentally sound. He is the glue that holds our defense together.”

One characteristic that Hale said Hay has displayed is unselfishness, which has made him fairly popular among his teammates.

“He is so unselfish. He always praises his teammates,” Hale said. “He often directs the attention to someone else. He is one of those kids who will do anything for his teammates.”

Recruiting will be heating up for most local teams as the college season begins to unwind, and coaches begin hitting the road and traveling to high schools. The Tribune-Democrat will continue to cover local recruits as February’s national letter-of-intent day approaches.

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