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Lions look to hard-throwing Rockey to lead the way
It’s been quite a ride for Auburn Mountainview senior Domenic Rockey.
As a four-year varsity member and three-year starting quarterback, Rockey has seen a lot.
He’s had three coaches in four years and was a crucial part of the Lions’ turnaround that found the team improving from a 4-6 record in 2010, to a playoff-bound 6-4 team last year.
It all started for Rockey in the fifth grade.
Rockey got his start with Auburn Junior Football.
In the sixth grade, Rockey, along with Lion teammates Devin Bryant, Curtis Scott, Brandon Bodine, JJ Lacey and Kijana Dyer, helped the Panthers make it all the way to the title game, where they lost to the Benson Bruins from Renton.
“I played quarterback and tight end because I was a little thicker back then,” Rockey said. “In sixth and seventh grade, that’s when I actually started to get good. A couple of years after you’ve been playing, that’s when you’re not scared anymore. In fifth grade it’s like ‘oh crap, what am I doing?’”
Rockey said he first expected to play for the Auburn Trojans.
“I didn’t really know that there was going to be a school up here, we all thought we were going to go to Auburn,” Rockey said. “A lot of the Auburn coaches wanted me to go down there because they came out to all of our games in sixth grade.”
In the seventh grade, Rockey switched to the Kent Knights, where he wrapped up his youth football career before making the Auburn Mountainvew varsity squad as a freshman.
“After two weeks I moved up to varsity,” Rockey said. “I still played quarterback for the freshman team, but in my second game suiting up for varsity I got to play a couple of plays. I got to play a few series during that year, in blowouts.”
Rockey said he remembers the first time he found himself under center under the Friday night lights at Auburn Memorial Stadium, against powerhouse Lakes.
“It was pretty scary because they were pretty big,” he said. “I just handed the ball off a couple of times.”
After Rockey’s freshman year, Auburn Mountainview’s head coach Mike Clancy stepped down, and newcomer Craig Spence took over.
Rockey said that first summer under Spence’s tutelage was crucial to his development as a quarterback.
“I learned a lot of stuff that year,” Rockey said. “Just understanding coverages and reading your keys. That summer every day after practice we’d stay a couple hours just watching film from college offenses, just studying concepts. That’s why I feel like I’m a coach on the field now, because of all that time learning. Coaches don’t have to coach everything up during the game, I can help now.”
In his first year as the team’s starter, Rockey and the Lions struggled in league play, posting a 1-4 South Puget Sound League Record.
Before summer practices began, Spence was out, leaving Rockey and the rest unsure who would lead the team during the 2011 season.
Then head coach Jared Gervais stepped in to fill the void, bringing with him the spread offense and an emphasis on the passing game.
“I loved it, we threw a lot,” Rockey said. “We still had Viktor (Korchemniy, at running back) and we had a lot of athletes that we could just get the ball to and let them make things happen. I was especially excited to run the spread.”
Gervais said having a skilled quarterback to run the offense was crucial.
“It was huge to have a kid who could throw the ball and get rid of it quick,” Gervais said. “I think he enjoyed running spread, and most quarterbacks aren’t going to complain that they’ve got to throw it a lot. It was perfect having a kid who wanted to throw it and let those kids on the outside run around with it.”
Rockey and the Lions thrived last season under Gervais’ system, notching a 6-4 overall record, including a 3-2 league record, and earning the program’s first ever playoff appearance.
“That’s when I really realized how good I could be when I was throwing it around everywhere,” Rockey said. “In the first game against Sumner last year, we were just looking at redeeming ourselves from the year before. And we knew nobody was going to expect much from us. And we just had a chip on our shoulder. That was one of the best games I ever played in my high school career. I remember completing a bunch of passes and thinking ‘this spread thing is going to be a lot of fun.’”
Rockey capped the year off by shattering all of the school’s passing records, notching more than 2,000 yards passing and throwing for 15 touchdowns.
His performance garnered him the attention of several colleges, including Washington State University.
“Washington State liked me, but they’ve got another guy,” he said. “I’m at the top of the list. But Eastern Washington, Portland State and Weber State all said I just have to keep up the good work, have a good season and they would offer me. They said I’m in their top five for quarterbacks. I’ve also got a couple looks from Utah, and they like me.
“I just want to keep playing, I love this game,” said Rockey, who carries a 3.7 GPA. “I can’t really afford to be too picky with the opportunity. Going and playing and getting an education, that’s what matters.”
“He’s getting better both on the field and off,” Gervais said. “He’s learned a lot since last year and keeps getting better. He just needs to keep refining those little things. He has all the quarterback skills that you need, he gets the ball out of his hands well. He just needs to clean up a few small things and he’ll get even better.”
The Lions are 1-2 on the season, with losses to Camas and Sumner and a win over Mount Tahoma.
Already Rockey has thrown the ball 98 times, completing 54 passes for 613 yards and six touchdowns.
Still, he knows he has to get better.
“I don’t think I’ve been playing that well this year,” he said. “I think I’m trying to do too much,” he said. “I think it’s because I know I’m going to throw so much each game, so it’s a lot on me. I think I just need to settle down and focus and just throw it out there and let my receivers catch it.”
The Lions will host Battleground at 7 p.m. Friday at Auburn Memorial.