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Don KetchumStaff Writer, AIA365.com firstname.lastname@example.org
After detour, Roh and Chaparral back where they want to beNov 8, 2012
By Don Ketchum
The moment remains seared in the memory of Jake Roh and his football teammates from Scottsdale Chaparral High.
It was the last night of August, another scorcher.
After losing its season-opening game to Tucson Salpointe Catholic, Chaparral was ready to wrap up its first win of the season in a home game against Tempe Marcos de Niza.
There was one second left on the clock. Only one play to go, with Marcos de Niza in possession of the ball at the Chaparral 11. Marcos de Niza quarterback Josh Eckley dropped back to pass, but saw the middle of the field opening up. He improvised and took off, scoring as time expired to give Marcos de Niza a 29-27 win.
Chaparral, which had won three state championships in a row, would lose three of its first four games.
But the Firebirds won their next seven in a row and have reached the Division II quarterfinals as the No. 7 seed on Friday night (Nov. 9), a rematch with No. 2 Marcos de Niza at Marcos.
Coming back to defeat Marcos de Niza and reach the semifinals would be a remarkable achievement, said Chaparral senior receiver-linebacker Jake Roh.
“Early in the season, there were a lot of critics, a lot of doubters who said Chaparral wouldn’t even make the playoffs. To win and become a championship contender again would make it even that (turnaround) that much sweeter,’’ Roh said.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Roh has been a major factor for the Firebirds this season.
According to MaxPreps, Roh has caught 57 passes for 795 yards and 13 touchdowns. On defense, he is averaging 5.7 tackles per game, with four sacks and four interceptions.
He is one of the more coveted recruits by colleges. He has had numerous visits and plans to visit Duke and Boise State soon before making a final decision by mid-December.
Roh’s other brother, Craig, was an offensive lineman at Chaparral and was heavily recruited. Craig Roh now is at Michigan.
Asked if his brother offered him any advice, Jake Roh said, “He said, “Make sure you play where you want to. Don’t be influenced by that others (outsiders) are trying to tell you.’ ’’
Despite the early struggles, this season has been rewarding for Roh.
“We have a lot of young guys on our team, who didn’t have that much varsity experience at the start of the season,’’ he said. “But they have really matured and we are playing our best football right now. It will be exciting to play these guys (Marcos de Niza) again. They have become somewhat of a rival for us.’’
Because of his senior status, Roh has become a team leader.
To excel in that role means being productive on the field and having the right frame of mind.
“If a big play happens, you’ve got to tell them (young players) to keep their composure, forget about that last play, because sometimes it can stay in their heads,’’ Roh said.
Depending on the colleges’ needs, some are recruiting him on offense, while others are looking at him on the defensive side of the ball. Roh enjoys playing both.
“On defense, you can really go after guys, make your own plays,’’ he said. “On offense, I love catching the ball. It’s one of the best feelings to jump up and catch the ball over a guy (defender).’’
The Firebirds also have had to adjust to a new head coach this season. Former coach Charlie Ragle departed to join the staff at the University of Arizona, and Dave Huffine was promoted from offensive coordinator.
“Ragle was a rah-rah guy, definitely emotional, but “Huff’ can really get you fired up, too, with some of his pre-game speeches,’’ Roh said.
Another big influence for the Firebirds, Roh said, has been the return of former defensive coordinator Conrad Hamilton to his old post after spending a year as head coach at Phoenix North Canyon.
Whatever happens on Friday night and possibly beyond, Roh plans to leave everything he has on the field.
“I think I’ve done well,’’ he said. “I have tried to be the best player I can be.’’