Rocket Football Preview: Round One of Playoffs

Leominster Comes to Town


Colby Markham ('25), Orbit Contributor

November has arrived, and with it, the MIAA playoffs. Your Rockets will be facing off against the 7-1 Leominster Blue Devils at home this Friday. Both teams have had overwhelming success in the regular season, and possess the talent needed to make a deep postseason run. 

Last Week: Regular Season Finale

The Rockets were dominant in their victory over Lexington last Friday. They jumped out to a 21-6 lead at the half, and came out of halftime guns blazing. On the very first play of the third quarter, Reading came out in a four-receiver set. Senior wide receiver Ryan Strout blew by his defender on a well-executed seam route, and caught a pass in stride. He then maneuvered his way past the safety and outran four pursuing defenders to reach the end zone relatively untouched. The 65 yard touchdown wasn’t all Ryan Strout had in store though. After a short punt by Lexington, the Rockets had the ball at their 49. After being motioned to James Murphy’s right, Strout caught a ball in the flat, and turned it up field. He sped by a cornerback and shrugged off a tackle attempt from the safety, on his way to a 51 yard touchdown. These touchdowns weren’t typical lasers to the end zone from James Murphy. Strout had to avoid defenders and take hits to score. All season, Ryan has been exceptional at picking up yards after the catch. He’s a big guy who can take a lot of hits, but for him and the other receivers, it’s just a part of the job.

“You have to know that you’re gonna get hit, it’s gonna hurt, but you have to do it for the team. The linemen do it every play and put their body on the line just so Murph can get the ball out, so I have to be able to take those hits.”

It’s gonna be fun, hopefully we come out on top.

— Ryan Strout ('23)

After a 20 point third quarter, a 22 yard touchdown run in the fourth from backup Quarterback Jack Murphy capped off a phenomenal 47-6 victory.  In addition to the win, Ryan Strout secured his 100th career reception in a spectacular performance. The next closest player is Ryan Maney who ended his career with 65 catches after graduating in 2012. Strout attributed the success to the work he and his teammates put in during the offseason, “It feels good. It’s like a reward for all the hard work you put in the offseason. Cause it’s not just me, it’s also Murph throwing 100 completions to me. He helped me get there, the coaches too, it’s just fun for all of us.”

A look at each team’s season:

Leominster: The Blue Devils have one of the most explosive offenses in Division 2. Led by talented freshman Quarterback Osiris Lopez, it’s a common occurrence for them to put up over 40 points in a night. Lopez threw for an impressive 1,796 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions this season. Save for throwing 5 interceptions in a 41-20 loss against an undefeated Peabody Veterans Memorial squad, he has had an excellent first year campaign. With offensive weapons like Freshman Kaiden Drinkwater, and Seniors Ricky Encarnacion and Bryan Aguilar, Leominster’s offense is a formidable challenge for any team to overcome. On the defensive side of the ball, the Blue Devils aren’t half bad either. They’ve three shutouts and three games allowing 14 points or less. Leominster is a tough squad that certainly deserves their spot in the postseason.

Reading: The Rockets have been lights out. Their scorching hot offense has pummeled defenses, dropping nearly 39 points a game. Quarterback James Murphy had the best regular season of his career, throwing for 1,864 yards and 21 touchdowns. His precise passing has led to near flawless efficiency, leading to 129 completions, a completion rate of 71%, and just a single interception, all of which are career bests for Senior. To achieve those stats, Murph needs players to throw to. Ryan Strout and Jesse Doherty have been the leading pass catchers this season. Strout with 806 receiving yards (good for 100 yards a game) and six touchdowns, and Doherty with 504 yards and 7 touchdowns. The rushing game has also been extremely strong, Alvin Day picking up 470 yards and 6 touchdowns in only 6 played games, and Jack Dougherty rushing for 262 yards and 7 touchdowns in 7 games. 

The Defense has also played exceptionally well, allowing more than 14 points in a game only twice. Sophomore Jake Palm leads the team with 25 solo tackles. Seniors Aiden Bekkenhuis and Alex DiNapoli have three interceptions apiece. 

Strout’s thoughts on what it’ll take to win? Nothing the Rockets haven’t done before. 

“I think we have to not be scared of the moment, they’re coming here so they gotta fight more than we do. It’s gonna be fun, hopefully we come out on top.”

The playoffs are here Rockets. Get loud, it’ll be a good one.

The Rockets are favored to win.