By Matt Popchock
Rochester head football coach Gene Matsook was upbeat when I talked to him about his team’s chances against Avonworth. His faith was rewarded Friday when his Rams hung on for a 26-22 victory in the WPIAL Class A Quarterfinals.
He also tried to be upbeat when discussing the recent events at State College, even as one of the most startling scandals in college sports history continues to unfold.
Matsook won the AP Coach of the Year award in 2004 by guiding Rochester all the way to the PIAA Class A Final. The next year, one of his players, Derek Moye, became one of the most heavily recruited players in the state, and Moye eventually launched what has become a successful career at Penn State.
Penn State’s home finale Saturday against Illinois has become more of a divisive event than ever imagined, an event that will be absent of Joe Paterno for the first time since the Truman Administration.
However, Matsook has a clear message for Moye’s peers.
“It’s devastating. But I would hope people remember that there are 80 kids on that football team who want to win on Saturday, and hopefully, people will turn out to support those kids,” Matsook said. “We hear about Joe, but obviously there have been a lot more people involved.
“Hopefully, it’ll work itself out, but it is a disappointment.”
After an outstanding athletic career at Rochester that has helped Moye become one of the focal points of Penn State’s offense, Matsook has no doubt his former player will have his head in the right place.
“The players are ready. The question is, are they going to win by 40, or [get distracted and] lose by 40? It’s difficult, I’m sure, because those players probably still believe in Joe Paterno,” Matsook said. “Knowing Derek, I’m sure his focus is just going to be to come out and play a great game.”
Keep reading the “Mr. High School Sports” blog for more reaction to the developing story at Penn State.
(Follow me on Twitter: twitter.com/mpopchock)