Rockets one and done in playoffs

Wednesday, November 8, 2006
Photo by Anthony S. Puca Forrest coach Kyle Stacey and senior John Skelton share in the emotional season ending loss.

The Region 5 fourth place Forrest High School Rockets (7-3) traveled to the Tiger's Lair Friday night to battle the Region 6 first place Mt. Pleasant Tigers (8-2) in a TSSAA Division I first round playoff game.

The Rockets were the only Marshall County team to garner a spot in the TSSAA postseason this year, but faced an uphill battle against a powerful Mt. Pleasant team that sported the state's leading rusher and scorer in quarterback Marco Dailey. If the Rockets hoped to win the game, they knew they had to contain Dailey and not let him single handedly beat them. Forrest did not do that and they paid the price in a 35-21 loss that ended a very good season for Coach Kyle Stacey and his Forrest squad.

Mt. Pleasant jumped out to an early 14-0 first quarter lead when Dailey raced 61 yards on the first play from scrimmage. Forrest then fumbled on their first possession which gave the Tigers a short field which they capitalized on with several Dailey runs and capped the drive with a 10 yard run by Jay Stoops.

The Rockets defense stiffened in the second quarter and the offense mounted a drive with some key passes by Kristian Albarran to Colin Henson and a surge by senior standout running back Dominique Johnson who began to find some daylight in the Mt. Pleasant defense. Forrest scored on the late second quarter drive when Albarran scampered in from the 14-yard line to make the score 14-7. Unfortunately, Dailey took control again and drove his team 70 yards with his legs and scored from 5 yards out with under a minute to go in the half to extend the lead to 13 at the end of the half.

Forrest Coach Stacey kept his squad calm at halftime in the locker room and let them know that they were capable of winning the game. Stacey also became aware that Johnson had injured his hand and knew he had to make some adjustments to his offensive package to alleviate some pressure on his running back. Forrest came out fired up and ready to play, but were stopped on their opening possession of the second half when Mt. Pleasant changed to a blitz package on defense and sacked Albarran twice to force a turnover on downs.

Marco Dailey then drove his team down the field again with some spectacular running before scoring from 12 yards out to stretch the Tiger lead to 28-7 midway through the third quarter. When the Rockets went three and out on their next possession, the home crowd smelled blood in the water and expected Dailey to seal the victory. The Rockets would have none of it as the defense stepped up to stop the Tigers on a fourth down play deep in Rocket territory. The visiting crowd surged for the Rockets, but they were quieted by another untimely Forrest turnover that Mt. Pleasant recovered inside their own 10-yard line.

Mt. Pleasant was ready to seal the victory when a bad snap forced the Tigers all the way back to their 23-yard line. Two plays later, Dailey fumbled and Colin Henson fell on the ball to give the Rockets life. The turnover bug bit the Rockets again when Mt. Pleasant recovered a bad lateral and took over after just three plays. Again, the home crowd felt relief and a sense of impending victory when the Forrest reared up on defense with freshman Parker Holton forcing a fumble that was recovered by standout Rocket linebacker Blake Arceneaux who took a cheap shot late hit on the sidelines by a Mt. Pleasant defender.

The personal foul fired up the Rockets and the comeback was on! After a beautiful Hook and Ladder on first down, Colin Henson electrified the Forrest faithful when ran like the wind down the right sideline on a reverse to score from 20 yards out to cut the score to 28-14 and set up an incredible turn of events. Everyone in the stadium knew an onsides kick was next, but Forrest executed the play with perfection and freshman Levell Quezaire recovered at the Mt. Pleasant 39 yard line with 6:15 to play in the game.

Mt. Pleasant tried in vain to stop the Rockets, forcing a fourth down play, but the Tigers jumped offside to give Forrest the first down. Again, Mt. Pleasant buckled down and forced a fourth down play from their 40 yard when Coach Stacey called a perfect play to spring the injured Johnson who raced home from 40 yards out and the game was definitely not over at 28-21 with 3:51 left.

The home crowd was slithering in their seats as Forrest again attempted an onside kick, but the Tigers recovered this time and knew they needed to run out the clock and not give back the ball to a Forrest team that was determined to score again. The sure fire All-State running Dailey, sealed the deal when he cracked the middle of the Forrest defense and raced to daylight from 40 yards out to end the scoring at 35-21. Dailey finished with 244 yards rushing to bring his season total to an incredible 2157 yards.

After the game, Forrest Coach Stacey thanked all of his coaches for a job well done and then tearfully thanked his outgoing seniors for laying the foundation for a program that will assuredly have much success in the future. Stacey said, "Seniors, I want to thank you for everything you have done, I love every one of you. Thanks coaches, it takes everybody. Good job, good year, and keep your heads high." Forrest never quit, never wavered, and that is a mark of a program that has great coaching.