Rockets stand tall before falling
In Linden, the football battle cry is "row Vikings row" and in Chapel Hill Friday night, the 2010 Class A state semi-finalists found the navigation tough as the underdog Forrest Rockets held a 7-0 halftime lead before Perry County's master and commander Jacob Tucker led his squad to a second half comeback and a 22-7 opening night win.
Forrest head coach Kyle Stacey said after the game, "What made the difference in my eyes was when Tucker decided I am going to take it into my hands and not only pass it, but run."
The Rockets decided early on that they were not going to let the Vikings come to the "Rock" on opening night and have their way.
After a three and out for the Rockets in the games' first possession, Tucker and the Vikes found out that Forrest was in for the long haul when Tucker threw to Derek Watkins, who was hammered after the catch by Brandon Beech, causing a fumble that was recovered by Ronald Osborne near midfield.
Forrest went three and out again, but a nice punt by Angel Reyes, filling in for the injured Richard Hardin, bounded down to the fifteen-yard line.
After a Tucker to Garret Hill 17-yard pass reception on first down, the Rockets held again on three straight plays and got the ball back at their own 21-yard line after a nice Tucker punt.
Rocket fullback Richie Smith rumbled up the gut for 27 yards on first down as the home squad began to gain some offensive momentum.
After a Brooks Lamb first down incompletion, the junior quarterback found Tyler McClendon on a swing pass for seven yards before Zach Ray ran for four more yards and a Forrest first down.
Ray ran with the pigskin three more times in a row and made it to the Perry County 29-yard line with less than two minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Lamb rumbled for six more yards and the quarter ran empty on the next play with Forrest at the Vikings' 23-yard stripe.
Two consecutive Ray runs to begin the second quarter, combined with an offside's call on the Vikings gave Forrest the ball with a second down and three at the twelve.
Two Perry County defensive stops made it fourth down and one as Forrest called timeout with 9:02 remaining in the first half.
After the stoppage, Lamb weaved his way for a first and goal at the five and on the next play, Lamb found the endzone for a touchdown.
Reyes extra point was good and the Rockets led the stunned Vikings 7-0 with 8:24 left in the half.
On first down, Jacob Daughrity made a stop at the line of scrimmage for no gain and on second down, Beech drilled Zach Grimes in the backfield, almost causing another fumble.
Tucker threw an incompletion on third down and Perry County was forced to punt again.
The Rockets could not muster any offense on the ensuing drive and Reyes pinned the Vikings back again at the 17-yard line on another nice punt.
Tucker ran for five yards on first down, but fumbled in the backfield on second down when he was hit by Zach Osborne.
Tucker recovered his own drop and was sacked by Logan Wheeler on the next play as the drive fizzled out, forcing another punt that was hauled in by Daughrity at the Perry County 39-yard line.
The Rockets turned the ball over on downs to Perry County at the 31 with 24.5 seconds left in the half.
Tucker completed consecutive passes, moving the ball up to 48-yard line before Wheeler broke through and sacked him again.
The Vikings called timeout after the sack with just 6.7 second remaining in the half.
After the timeout, Tucker threw a frozen rope near the goal line that was almost caught, but the half was over and the Rockets had held firm.
Reyes' second half kickoff sailed into the endzone for a touchback, giving Tucker and the Vikings the ball at the twenty-yard line.
Tucker ran the ball four out of the next five plays, moving the ball out to the 49-yard before a false start on the Vikings offensive line made it first and fifteen at the 46.
Tucker took the snap and broke several tackles on his way to a 54-yard scoring jaunt, making it 7-6 with less than two minutes gone in the third quarter.
The 2010 Class A Mr. Football finalist busted into the endzone for the two-point conversion as Perry County took the lead for good.
The Rockets moved backwards after the kickoff and faced a fourth and 32 at the 11- yard line.
The punt snap sailed over Reyes head out of the endzone for safety, making it a 10-7 ballgame at the 7:20 mark of the third quarter.
After the safety kickoff, the Rocket defense came up big as Jonathan Anderson picked off Tucker with the Vikings driving down the field, trying to put the game on ice.
Forrest could not get anything going and gave the ball back to Perry County after three plays, and this time the Vikings took the ball and marched it up to the 49-yard line where Tucker found Andrew Mathis between two Rocket defenders over the middle for a touchdown.
The PAT was no good, giving Perry County a 16-7 lead with 56.6 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Once again, Forrest turned the ball over on downs.
The two squads traded first down fumbles before the Vikings scored from seven yards out on a Tucker to Mathis hookup, giving Perry County a 22-7 lead after Tucker ran in the two point try.
The next Forrest drive ended on a fumble and moments later the game ended with the same 22-7 score.
Tucker ended the contest with 96 rushing yards on 16 carries and one score and went 12-21 in the air for 200 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
"I am pleased with the way they came out, I'm pleased with the way they played together, I was pleased with the game plan on both sides of the ball, and I think we executed that game plan pretty good," said Stacey.
Forrest entertains Collinwood next week, while Perry County takes on Lewis County at Linden.
"Overall, I was very pleased with the effort," said Stacey. "And I think there is a lot we can build on with this young group. We have a great senior class and as long as they keep the attitude and work ethic and stick together, I think we have a lot to look forward to."