Forrest season ends in Dresden
After scoring first, it looked as if the road woes that had plagued the Forrest Rockets this year would disappear, instead all the shortcomings that had sent them three hours away for a first round playoff game to Dresden resurfaced, sending head coach Kyle Stacey's team back to Chapel Hill, one and done for the second season in a row.
"Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes, a major problem this year," said Stacey. "I told them before the game when you get to this level, you can't make crucial mistakes."
Forrest finished with a record of 6-5 with all of their losses coming away from the "The Rock" and the Rockets are now an even 94-94 since 1993 and have not won a playoff game since the 7-6 win over Mt. Pleasant at home in 1992.
Forrest is 0-7 in the post-season since the one-point win over the Tigers.
"I am proud of what these kids have accomplished," said Stacey. "Everybody wants this chance and we had our chance. It has been a roller coaster ride, up and down, up and down. I hate to lose this bunch; these are a great group of seniors. They have accomplished a lot. I don't think they have had a losing season their entire four years."
The 2010 senior class sported an impressive four-year record of 29-7.
A fired up Rocket squad won the opening coin toss and elected to receive, but three plays later, Forrest had to punt.
Dresden took over after the kick, but went nowhere and punted the ball away after three plays.
The Rockets took off on a sharp looking eight play, 68-yard drive, mixing it up with some nice runs by Zach Ray and a pretty 31-yard hookup from Dane Leonard to Zach Horvath that gave Forrest a first and goal from the three-yard line.
Two plays later, Leonard tucked the ball away and dashed right before cutting back up the middle for the touchdown.
Angel Reyes' extra point try was true, giving the Rockets a 7-0 lead with 4:44 left to play in the first quarter.
The hometown Lions, who had not won a playoff game since 1998 coming into the contest drove the ball all the way down to the Forrest 20-yard line early in the second quarter before Dakota Zimmerman swiped a fourth down Dale Hutcherson pass inside the five-yard line, ending the Dresden scoring threat.
It was Zimmerman's fourth pick of the season.
Forrest could not move out of the shadow of their goal line and were forced to punt out of the end zone.
The kick was not a good one, travelling just 30 yards.
Dresden took advantage of the super field position, scoring eight plays later on a Daniel Harris two-yard run.
The Lions' extra point try was good, tying the game at seven with 5:37 remaining in the first half.
Horvath turned in a nice kick-off runback up to the 42-yard line where the Rockets took over.
A holding call on second down put the Rockets in a second and seventeen situation, but a Leonard six-yard run followed by a screen pass to Ray for 14 more yards gave Forrest a first down at the Dresden 47-yard line.
Two plays later, a fumble recovered by the Rockets for a big loss forced a third down incompletion and Forrest had to punt.
This time, Richard Hardin's punt was superb, pinning the Lions back at their own 18-yard line with just over two minutes to play in the first half.
Forrest has had trouble defending the pass all season and Hutcherson began to dink and dunk for seven or eight yards at a time and before they knew it, the Lions were in the end zone on the fourteenth play of the drive on a Hutcherson 4-yard TD strike to tight end Tyler McPeak.
With eight seconds left in the first half, the extra point went through the uprights, giving the home team the momentum and a 14-7 halftime lead.
Dresden took the second half kickoff and drove the ball near midfield before Josh Allen got free on a third down blitz, knocking a Hutcherson pass to the ground to force a Lions' punt.
The Rockets, re-charged with the defensive stop, moved the ball back to the midfield stripe, but a crucial fumble recovery by Dresden's Drew Brown ended the Forrest scoring threat.
Hutcherson and the Lions went back to work, converting a huge fourth and one by an inch before taking it to the end zone five plays later on a Hutcherson keeper from twelve yards out.
The Rockets were not done, mounting a much needed offensive drive, but were forced to punt early in the fourth period after another near turnover.
Forrest senior Cole Sells recovered a Dresden fumble on a second-down play with 9:25 remaining in the contest, giving the Rockets another chance to get back in the ballgame.
After a couple of Leonard to Ray hookups and two runs by Ray gave Forrest a fourth and goal from the four-yard line, an incomplete pass in the end zone ended the Rockets last hope of a comeback.
The 21-7 win sends Dresden (9-2) to nearby Riverside (9-1) for the second round of the TSSAA playoffs on Friday.
"We still have a lot of work to do and we will keep on working at it and keep working on it," said Stacey. "And maybe one day it will all fall into place."
Ray, a junior, finished his record-breaking season with 1,695 rushing yards, 2,134 all-purpose yards and 20 touchdowns.