For the second straight year, the Forrest Rockets will be sitting on the sidelines for the TSSAA football playoffs.
This season, Forrest was knocked out 21-14 by an MTCS squad that will be making the school's first ever playoff appearance next week, traveling to Wayne County.
It will more than likely be a short lived appearance for the Cougars versus the tough Wildcats (8-2, 7-1), but the Rockets would have loved to board the bus for the trip instead of MTCS.
In big games, turnovers usually mean the difference between winning and losing and that was the case Friday in Murfreesboro.
Forrest lost the turnover battle 4-0 with the killer coming late in the fourth quarter when a Colin Henson pass skipped off the hands of an open Taylor Abrigo into the waiting arms of a surprised Chris Beasley who was beaten on the play that probably could have gone the distance.
"He tipped it, and I kind of had bad coverage, but I just got lucky and it fell in my hands," Beasley said after the game.
"Taylor will catch that ball nine out of ten times," said Forrest head coach Kyle Stacey. "We have made that play before; you just don't make them all."
Stacey added, "We have to give credit to MTCS, they have come a long way in four years. They have turned the corner."
MTCS took advantage of the late turnover, driving 51 yards and consuming almost five minutes off the fourth quarter clock before quarterback Scot Bartilson broke the 14-14 tie with a one yard keeper to ignite the first ever Cougar homecoming crowd.
The Rockets got the ball back with 2:09 left for one last chance to tie, but Beasley picked off Henson again on first down to seal the deal.
The Rockets opened the scoring, driving the ball 73 yards for a score on the game's initial drive. The big play was a 32 yard run by Levell Quezaire with a 15-yard penalty added to the end of the play on MTCS.
Quezaire capped off the scoring drive with a one yard touchdown burst and Abrigo added the PAT for a 7-0 Rocket lead.
The Rockets stopped the Cougars on their first drive, but quickly opened the door when a bad snap on a fourth down punt attempt gave MTCS great field position at the Rocket 17-yard line.
The Rockets almost got out of the hole, stopping the Cougars on three straight plays inside the two-yard line before Dillon Wade barely broke through on fourth down to tie the game at seven at the 10:34 mark of the second quarter.
Abrigo gave the Rockets great field position on the kick-off, returning the kick 48 yards to the Cougar 41-yard line.
Forrest drove to the 25-yard line where MTCS stopped them on a fourth down play to take over.
The Cougars capitalized, mixing in the run and pass to take a 14-7 lead on another Wade 1 yard run with 3:13 left in the half.
Forrest went three and out, but so did the Cougars, giving the Rockets one last first half chance with just under a minute to go.
Henson found Abrigo on a slant pattern and the junior wide-out took the ball 58 yards, barely being tackled at the Cougar 22-yard line with seconds left.
The Rockets had one chance to pass for the score, but MTCS dropped a bevy of defenders into the end zone where Christian Barrett ended the half with an interception.
MTCS was forced into a three and out on their first possession of the second half, but so were the Rockets. Again, the Forrest defense stepped up for another three-play stop and when they got the ball after the MTCS punt, the Rockets struck back to tie the ballgame.
On a second and nine play, Henson found Kyle Griffy open near the right sideline and fired it to the senior receiver who raced 62 yards for the touchdown. Abrigo's extra point was good and the game was tied at fourteen with 6:29 left in the third quarter.
The Rockets got another huge defensive stop and started the next drive at their own 39-yard line after the Cougar punt.
Henson ran for 11 yards on first down as the running game began to find some open space. Levell Quezaire's five-yard scamper on third and three gave the Rockets another first down at the MTCS forty.
Quezaire ran for six more yards before Tyler Klaren broke free for a big gain, down to the Cougar 16-yard line. MTCS held for three plays, forcing the Rockets into an Abrigo field goal try from 33 yards out.
Abrigo's kick was short and the Cougars took over with 9:52 left in the contest.
The Cougars could not get a first down and had to punt again.
The big play came on first down for the Rockets when Beasley caught the tipped ball for the interception with just under seven minutes to play.
Cougar quarterback Scot Bartilson connected for 18 yards to Eric Compton on first down as MTCS began to come to life on offense. Mixing in runs and passes, the Cougars drove all the way inside the Rocket 5-yard line and then down to the one. Bartilson capped off the five-minute drive with a dive over the top from the 1-yard line to give the home team a 21-14 lead.
The Rockets got a break when the ensuing kickoff sailed out bounds, giving the Rockets the ball at the 35-yard line.
Disaster struck on the next play when Beasley intercepted Henson again, this time to end the game and end the Forrest campaign.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game," said Stacey. "This team has overcome a lot this season, they could have folded, but they didn't. I am proud of everyone of them."