The quarterback drops back in the pocket, facing heavy pressure. He sees a receiver streaking down the field, covered tightly. With rushers closing in, the quarterback heaves the ball toward the end zone. The receiver leaps for the ball as he is hit by the defender, attempting to make a difficult catch before hauling it in for one of his six touchdown catches in the season.
That receiver was Clifford Roepke ‘20. He ran cross country his freshman year, then took a year off from fall sports to focus on basketball before joining the football team this fall. He has been a key component in the team’s success, contributing to the team’s first state berth in 16 years.
“I always thought football was a fun sport,” Roepke said. “I talked to coach Wunderlich about playing football, and I decided to play. It’s good to try new things.”
Trying football for the first time turned out to be a beneficial decision for both Roepke and the team. He caught seven touchdown passes, second on the team and tied for 25th in the state.
“The team seemed like they were excited to have me out, especially when I made a big play in practice,” he said.
Roepke was not on his own in trying to adapt to a new sport. Two teammates in particular stood out to him.
“[Matt Zarbynicky ‘19] and Drew [Thornton ‘20] helped me out,” he said. “Drew helped me understand different formations. [Zarbynicky] threw the ball around with me and told me what it’s like to be in a game and catch passes.”
Roepke has started every game except the first. He did not start in that game due to a week-long illness that caused him to miss practice. However, he did get some playing time.
“Playing in the game was different,” he said. “I knew I needed to stay calm, rely on my athleticism, and think of my strengths.”
Now that the season is over, Roepke will turn his focus toward basketball. The good memories from football still remain, however.
“I didn’t know what would happen. I didn’t really have too many expectations for the year,” he said. “I think it went well.”
The Mount is produced by the students of Mount Michael Benedictine School.