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A rivalry renewed: Holcomb, Mayo have loads of respect for Riggott, JM

On paper, it appears the Spartans and Rockets football teams are on opposite sides of the spectrum, but Mayo coach Donny Holcomb sees the positive steps being taken at JM.

092421-JOHN-MARSHALL-MAYO-FOOTBALL-6714.jpg
John Marshall's Troy Lee (14) is brought down by Mayo's Rudy Lozoya (44) during a high school football game Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, at John Marshall High School in Rochester. The intra-city rivals are scheduled to meet again Saturday at 5 p.m., at Mayo Stadium.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin file photo
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ROCHESTER — On paper, it appears that Saturday's 5 p.m. matchup between John Marshall and Mayo features a pair of football programs on opposite sides of the spectrum.

The Rockets are 0-3 and have yet to score a point, while the Spartans — who earned their first state-tournament appearance in 25 years last fall — are 3-0 and the class of Section 1AAAAA after a season-opening victory against Owatonna, followed by double-digit wins against Northfield and Century.

Yet, first-year JM coach Kyle Riggott is laying down a sturdy foundation.

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In fact, his counterpart believes it’s only a matter of time until the Rockets once again take flight.

“I have a ton of respect for (coach Riggott),” Mayo coach Donny Holcomb said. “There’s no doubt that they’re going to turn that sucker around.”

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But that takes time.

And so far, it has been anything but a smooth launch for Riggott and the Rockets.

JM has been outscored 80-0 in eight quarters of football and last week saw 30 of its players forced to miss at least a quarter of Saturday's 27-0 homecoming-game loss to Northfield for either missing a class, being late to practice, or both.

It’s part of a tough-love initiative Riggott hopes leads to a stronger foundation.

“Our goal is to get 1% better every day,” Riggott said. “We want to keep moving in that direction. But we are still trying to establish a culture of going to class and getting to places on time. Once we master those things, then we can get after the football development.”

Northfield handed John Marshall its third loss to begin this season, beating the Rockets 27-0 in a game that actually demonstrated significant progress by JM.

It’s a move that has garnered respect around the area, including from Holcomb.

“With the type of discipline that they're putting out there for the kids and I think just expectations, that's the biggest thing is, you gotta be strong enough to make change,” Holcomb said. “Have expectations and take your lumps and give kids a chance to respond.”

Riggott liked the way his Rockets responded last week. In particular, sophomore quarterback Nico Chhin, who provided a spark off the bench with 135 yards passing. He was a big reason why the Rockets had their most success moving the football. And although JM didn’t put up any points with Chhin at QB, last week was a step in the right direction.

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“He did a wonderful job of stepping up last week,” Riggott said. “As little as he is (5-feet-4, 130 pounds), he plays much bigger than that. You could just see the life he brought to our team when he was out there. He can extend plays and you like to see that. We’ll see how much he can handle.”

Chhin and the Rockets will face a talented Mayo defensive front seven that has controlled the game at times this season. In fact, Riggott called the Spartans one of the better defensive and offensive fronts JM will see all season.

Mayo was able to control the line of scrimmage in last week’s 49-18 victory against Century, outrushing the Panthers 161 to minus-4. Junior receiver Carter Holcomb was stellar again, hauling in three more touchdown passes as part of a 10-catch, 168-yard performance.

He now has an eye-popping 500 yards receiving with 25 catches and seven touchdowns in just three games for a Mayo offense that is averaging nearly 40 points per game.

“Mayo has a lot of physical gifts,” Riggott said. “They are very talented, strong and athletic, especially up front.”

A victory would mean the Spartans would hold on to the Addington Jug — the traveling trophy that goes to the winner of matchups between Rochester's three public high schools — for the third consecutive season. But Holcomb and company aren't counting their chickens before they hatch.

“They have athletic kids,” Holcomb said of JM. “They're fast. If they get a chance to make a play, they're going to make it, so it's going to be a good test for us with the amount of speed and athletes they have on their team, for us to be disciplined.”

Alex VandenHouten has been a sports reporter at the Post Bulletin since Sept. 2021. He loves to go hiking, biking, snowshoeing and just simply being outdoors with his wife Olivia. Readers can reach Alex at avandenhouten@postbulletin.com.
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