The scouting reports on Romeo were not at the top of anyone’s stack.
And why would they be? There’s a lot of talent in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division — and it seems to be on other rosters.
Preseason favorite Sterling Heights Stevenson is led by Central Michigan University commits Jordan Kwiatkowski and Jordan Ramsey out of the backfield. Chippewa Valley also has a lethal backfield, with running back Cephus Harris (Youngstown State) and quarterback Ryan Schuster (Layfayette). Grosse Pointe South has the state’s top prospect, Will Johnson, who’s bound for Ann Arbor, along with teammate Joe Klunder.
By comparison, Romeo has Logan Rolfs — who hasn’t received any college offers yet.
Before you say “Who?” be sure to check the standings. With Rolfs under center, the upstart Bulldogs are at the top of the heap, following their 7-0 shutout Friday of Stevenson. Both teams ended up 4-1 in league play, which would make it a tie according to conference rules (although Romeo won the head-to-head matchup).
“It was a big defensive battle — they had a great defense, they’re a great team,” Rolfs said Friday. “It was a really fun game and we played our heart out. I think we were just the better team.”
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Sleeping on the dogs?
If Romeo is the better team, why are the Bulldogs being slept on this year?
It could be the abundance of talent elsewhere in the division, or it could be the ordinary-looking 5-5 record Romeo had during the 2020 pandemic season. Romeo had a 1-4 mark in Red Division play last year, which turned out to be the Bulldogs’ first five games of the season, due to the reshuffling of the schedule.
But Romeo was competitive against league opponents, and the Bulldogs did seem to put things in order as the year went on. In the playoffs, they beat MAC White champion Anchor Bay 20-6, got revenge against Macomb Dakota 15-14, and ended Rochester Stoney Creek’s undefeated season in the district finals, 45-27.
This year, Romeo (6-1, 4-1) nearly ran the table against division opponents despite being predicted to finish as low as fifth. But coach Curt Rienas wasn’t putting much stock in preseason coaches’ polls.
“We thought we had a really good team just because we had pretty good depth, and it showed tonight with as many guys as we had out. Other guys were able to step up,” Rienas said. “Our senior class, their trademark is just being fierce competitors. We thought we’d be in a game all the time, and we thought this could happen.”
Frequently, Rolfs is the one making it happen for the Bulldogs. He’s a nimble, dual-threat quarterback who can turn on the jets when hitting the holes. He led all rushers Friday night with 74 yards, a great number in such a defensive battle.
Rolfs had practically that many yards in his two touchdown runs during Romeo’s lone league loss, 37-34, to Chippewa Valley on Sept. 24; Rolfs had scoring plays of 42 and 29 yards as he helped the Bulldogs erase a three-touchdown deficit in the second half.
Learning to be more than a thrower
Possibly the most interesting thing about Rolfs is he wasn’t even a quarterback before joining Romeo’s varsity last year. He was a junior varsity wide receiver and defensive back (which is still plays, on occasion, in nickel formations).
“When he was younger, he had kind of wanted to play (QB), but, quite honestly, the attention span was not quite there at that time, and it was something that we were talking to him about going into last season,” Rienas said. “He decided it was going to give it a try once more in the offseason, and in game two our starter went down, and he’s been the guy since then.”
It didn’t take long for Rolfs to pick up the nuances the position entails.
“I always played running back and receiver, so obviously I was always running the ball, so running the ball always comes naturally to me,” he said. “I always had a great arm, my feet were never that good. Once I got my feet under me, it all came together.”
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That also includes his kicking foot. Rolfs is Romeo’s punter, and that turned out to be a weapon against Stevenson. He punted seven times Friday, only one of which was returned. His final punt was downed at Stevenson’s 4-yard line with 6 minutes to play, and the Romeo defense was able to force a game-changing interception on the ensuing series.
“His punting was probably the biggest factor in tonight’s game, flipping the field as many times as he did,” Rienas said. “He had a couple of nice ones. That was key.”
Overall, Rienas calls Rolfs a “special athlete.”
“He’s the kind of kid that, regardless of the situation, you want the ball in his hands when the lights are on and the game’s on the line because he wants to be in that position,” the coach said.
But how does that explain the lack of attention from college scouts?
“You know, I think a lot of it is because we moved him to quarterback last year, and when you’re transitioning to new positions, I think people forget about you a little bit,” Rienas said. “I definitely know that he’s got that ability to choose what he wants to pursue.”
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