Rockets' comeback falls short in Lynchburg
A Scottish harr (cold, wet, and damp) lingered low over the field Friday night in Lynchburg and so did a playoff atmosphere as the Forrest Rockets took on the Moore County Raiders, who staved off a late rally by the visitors from Chapel Hill to win 28-21.
"I knew it was going to be tough and I knew going into it, what they did on offense was going to be extremely difficult to defend," said FHS head coach Kyle Stacey. "We just could not seem to get a break and could not close the door on them and I think that was the difference in the game."
The Rockets, coming off a big win over archrival Cascade last week, fell behind early and just could not get the one big play that they have been accustomed to all season.
With just two first downs and three, three-and-outs on four possessions, Forrest was fortunate to trail the Raiders by only seven points at the end of the first half.
In a scoreless first quarter, both offenses looked like they were in a fog, but it was the Raiders who drew first blood on a six play, 51-yard drive midway through the second quarter that was capped off on a 6-yard TD scamper by quarterback Justin Durm.
The two-point try was no good on an incomplete pass.
After the Moore County score, Forrest's Tyler McClendon covered up a short kickoff at the Rocket 41-yard line and on first down, Zach Ray hauled in a short pass from Brooks Lamb and ran to the Raider 21.
A Lamb incompletion was followed by a Brandon Beech, tackle breaking touchdown run that tied the game at six with 6:30 remaining in the first half.
Angel Reyes drilled the point after touchdown kick and the Rockets would take a 7-6 lead.
The lead was short-lived as the Raiders marched 69-yards on 13 plays (12 runs) and took the lead back on a Nathan Matlock 9-yard TD run.
Durm threw to J.P. Evans successfully on the two-point try, giving Moore County a 14-7 lead with .58 remaining in the first half.
The Rockets tried to get some late points, but a holding call combined with a sideline unsportsmanlike penalty set them back and the first half ended with the home team leading by a touchdown.
The Raiders received the ball at the outset of the second half and once again, put together a long 13-play scoring drive that was capped off by an Evans one-yard touchdown run.
Durm found Matlock in the back of the end zone for two points and Forrest trailed 22-7 with 5:51 remaining in the third period.
Forrest answered with a five play, 64-yard touchdown set that was iced on a 34-yard catch and run by Jacob Daughrity.
Reyes' extra point was true and the Rockets were back in the game at 22-14 with just over three minutes to go in the third quarter.
The Raiders were stubborn as they countered with another scoring drive that ate up over eight minutes of the game clock and ended on a Durm 28-yard touchdown toss to Jared McKenzie.
The extra point was no good, setting the Rockets behind 28-14.
Forrest answered the call again, this time on four plays that ended with a another Lamb to Daughrity TD hook-up from 40-yards out, leaving the Rockets within striking distance, 28-21 with 5:56 left in the contest.
The Rockets needed a defensive stop and got it, taking the ball at their own 29-yard line with 2:57 remaining.
On second down, Lamb scampered to the right for about twelve yards before being tackled.
The ball came out late and McKenzie recovered for the Raiders to end the drive and the ballgame.
With the win, combined with Cascade's loss to Eagleville, Moore County finished second in the district and received a first round bye in the 1A bracket of the playoffs, while Forrest finished third in league play and the Champions fourth.
The Rockets (7-3) were rewarded with a first round 2A home playoff game versus Houston County (5-5) Friday night at 7:00 p.m. at the "Rock" in Chapel Hill.
"We get a new start now," said Stacey. "Our kids need to understand they have accomplished a lot this year. I look for them to bounce right back just like we did versus Perry County and like we did versus Eagleville. I would not think of anything else they would do and they will do that."