Rockets run over Irish 35-0
The Houston County Fighting Irish knew what was coming in their 2A playoff opener Friday night, but could not stop the Forrest ground attack as the Rockets exploded with a whopping 457 rushing yards behind an attacking offensive line that paved the way for a 35-0 shutout win at the "Rock" in Chapel Hill.
The win was the first playoff triumph for Forrest (8-3) since 1992 and sends the Rockets on the road, under the lights to Decatur County Riverside (4-7) for a second round, Friday night match-up.
"It feels great, one step at a time," said Forrest head coach Kyle Stacey. "The kids responded well tonight, stepped up and raised it to another level and we have to continue to do that each week."
The number two seeded Panthers had a bye week to prepare for the AP number nine ranked Rockets, who will be trying to advance to the third round for the first time in school history.
"We will go back to work Sunday and Monday, see what Riverside has and go at them with what we have been doing all year," said Stacey.
The Rockets' men up front opened up some huge holes for junior quarterback Brooks Lamb and senior tailback Zach Ray to run through as Lamb rushed for a career high 180 yards and three touchdowns, while the wily Ray found 149 yards worth of daylight and scored a touchdown.
"The guys on the line tonight were incredible," said Lamb after the game. "They played their hearts out, seriously there were holes everywhere, and it was incredible."
After Forrest fumbled away the first possession of the game, deep in Houston territory, the Rocket defense stopped the Irish cold on a three and out.
The hometown boys went on an eight play, 85-yard drive, highlighted by a big Richie Smith third down conversion, a Lamb to Ray 45-yard swing pass, and a Lamb run down to the Irish eight where Brandon Beech finished the job with a touchdown jaunt.
Angel Reyes drilled the extra point to make it 7-0 with 4:06 remaining in the first quarter.
The two teams traded unsuccessful possessions before the Rockets took advantage of a Ronald Osborne fumble recovery at the Forrest 38-yard line.
After a first down incompletion, Lamb and Smith pounded the ball to the Houston County 33-yard line where Lamb dashed to the endzone for a touchdown and Reyes' extra point kick made it 14-0.
The Rocket defense stiffened once again and the Irish had to punt after three plays.
Forrest dug the visitors a deep hole they would never be able to crawl out of when they marched 66 yards in seven plays, capped off by another Lamb touchdown run (15-yards) to make it 21-0 with fewer than two minutes to play in the first half.
The big play came from Ray inside Rocket territory, when he blistered the Irish defense on a third down run all the way down to the Houston County 11-yard line.
Houston County took the second half kickoff and marched the ball to the Forrest 35-yard line before and incomplete pass on fourth down, ended the drive with 8:41 remaining in the third quarter.
The Rockets needed just five plays to make it 28-0 as Lamb ran to paydirt from 60-yards on a scrambling play when he reversed direction and outraced the Irish secondary down the visitors' sideline for the score.
The Irish were determined to erase the goose egg and drove to the Rocket 10-yard line where they faced a fourth down and seven, but Beech and Zach Osborne combined for a sack on Houston County quarterback Eric Popa to end the drive.
Senior defensive end Paten Pruitt talked about the huge defensive effort that allowed the Irish to gain only 159 total yards.
"We are thrilled to death with this win," said Pruitt. "When their offense got close, we challenged ourselves to keep that goose egg on the scoreboard and we did it. We just have to continue to work hard in practice because we are going to face more tough challenges ahead."
Forrest milked the clock before punting and the Irish drove to the Rocket 20 where Jacob Daughrity came up with a big play when he picked off a Popa pass.
Six plays later, Ray ran for a touchdown and Reyes added the extra point to finish off the 35-0 shellacking.