Forrest rock 'n' rolls past Pats
The Forrest Rockets are in firm control of their playoff destiny after throwing a defensive blanket over White House-Heritage Friday in a convincing 30-0 shutout win over the Pats at a slippery "Rock" in Chapel Hill.
For the second week in a row, the Rockets had a perfect liftoff when Taylor Abrigo flipped on the early ignition switch, electrifying the home crowd with a 99-yard touchdown return of the opening kickoff.
The Abrigo kickoff return fired up a Forrest defense that did not need much-added octane, entering the contest with a stingy 10.2 points scored against average and leaving under double digits at 8.7.
Forrest defensive coordinator Brian Coleman was ecstatic with his unit after the game and said, "The defense played really hard, they are playing really hard right now. It seems like they are gelling together really good, everybody is playing hard, all eleven. We need to gel about this time getting close to playoff time. Three important games coming up. We tackled well. We tackle everyday and blocking and tackling are two keys to good football."
The Rockets (6-1, 2-1) have consecutive road games at Huntland (4-3, 2-1) next week and in Unionville (0-7, 0-4) in two weeks before ending their season at home on Oct. 30 versus Moore County (3-4, 0-3).
If the Rockets win out, the probability of a first round home playoff game seems likely, even with the Da Vinci like TSSAA post-season playoff code.
The Rockets won the coin toss and elected to receive the football.
A booming kick by White House Heritage's Will Robertson sailed deep to the Forrest goal line where Abrigo fielded the ball in the green and turned up the middle and then cut left where a wall of Rocket blockers were waiting.
Number 25 turned on the jets and into open air down the home sidelines, outrunning the Patriot defenders into the end zone for the score.
A smiling Abrigo said after the contest, "Before the game I looked at Dane (Leonard) and I said we are gonna go defense first. He said no, we got the ball, but I told him either me or Levell are gonna take this one back to the house. We just gotta to open it up right and we did it and it opened up right to the end zone."
The Patriots were under fire on offense against the super charged Rockets and left the field quickly, going three and out.
Abrigo said about the kickoff TD, followed by the initial defensive stand, "After the return I challenged Patrick Warner and they smashed them in the mouth right off the bat. It was just one thing after another. It throws that adrenaline up and gets your heart pounding."
Forrest did not move the ball on their first offensive touch, punting back to WHH.
The Patriots moved the ball into Forrest territory, but the drive was stopped on a Warner second down sack that forced WHH into a third down incompletion.
The Rockets took the WHH punt at the 13-yard line on an Abrigo fair catch.
Six offensive plays later, the first quarter was over with Quezaire running for a first down at the 48.
The Rockets continued to march into the second quarter, grinding up the Pat defense and the clock.
With 8:20 left in the first half, Zach Ray capped the 77-yard drive, splitting the WHH defense up the middle for a touchdown from three yards out.
Angel Reyes' extra point was true, giving the Rockets a 14-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, freshman Levi Newman busted the WHH wedge, hammering the Pat kickoff man at the 29-yard line.
Newman would go on to make several big plays on special teams and Coleman called his name after the contest, saying, "He played an excellent game. We harped on special teams all week. They (MTCS) scored a touchdown on a punt last week and we tried to correct that. Newman, a freshman played really hard and got down the field real good."
The big Newman blast buoyed the defense some more.
Senior Casey Franklin has been making big play after big play on defense this season and came up with his fourth interception of the year with just under five minutes to play in the half.
The Rockets could not capitalize on the WHH turnover as Cameron Vitulli intercepted the ball back with just under a minute to go in the first half.
The Rockets took the two-touchdown lead to the locker room.
Newman rocked Cody Tobitt on the kickoff return, adding to what would be a long night for the Patriot standout.
WHH did have their best drive of the night, moving the ball up near midfield, but the Forrest defense stiffened once again, forcing another Pat punt.
On second down Leonard threw a little hitch pass to Abrigo, who shaked and baked it 61 yards down the far sideline to the Patriot 15-yard line.
Four plays later Quezaire found the end zone from the four-yard line. The Reyes extra point was blocked, giving the Rockets a 20-0 lead.
On the next WHH possession the Rocket 'D' stuck in the dagger, stopping the Patriots on a fourth and one.
With 8:42 left in the contest, Reyes booted a 23-yard field goal, making it 23-0.
Ray scored his 7th touchdown of the season with 48.4 seconds left and Reyes booted the extra point for a final score of 30-0, Rockets.
Quezaire and Ray both finished with 79 yards rushing in the contest, Tyler Klaren ran for 35 yards, and Richie Smith had 25.
Leonard ran for 13 yards and passed 87 from under center.