Rockets win by a Dawg hair
After another spirited skirmish in the Battle of the North and South at "The Rock" in Chapel Hill Friday night, the Forrest Rockets escaped the struggle with a 28-26 win, thanks to a missed last second field by Cornersville.
"Of course, first thing, I have to give honor to Jesus Christ, didn't do it last week, shame on me," said Forrest head coach Joe Moos after the game. "Second thing, Cornersville is one heck of a team, there is no doubt about it; Coach (Ray) Stocstill has done a fantastic job with that team and all the props to him."
The Rockets had to come from behind twice in the first half as the tenacious Bulldog's came to play, scoring on their second play from scrimmage, via a 72-yard TD hookup by Hayden McMahon to Stone Riner.
"I was pleased with the effort of our kids," said Stocstill. "We were just a couple of plays away from winning the ballgame, just like the game was last year and the year before that. We have had the last three games with Chapel Hill been great ballgames, unfortunately they have come out on top in all three."
Riner would go on to make several great catches in the ballgame and would end up with four receptions for 113 yards, including a huge fourth quarter beauty.
"Stone is a very competitive little guy and he has a lot of athletic ability, not very big, but he has played that way all year for us and we are real, real pleased at what he has been able to do and the production he has had," said Stocstill. "And Hayden has a big arm, if he gets time, he can throw it."
After the initial scoring strike by Cornersville, the Rockets would come back to tie the game at 7-7 on a Tyler McClendon 11-yard run with 4:25 remaining in the first quarter.
The two squads would swap touchdowns on their next possessions with Cornersville going ahead 14-7 on a McMahon 6-yard TD pass to Zach Small in part of a nine-play drive that ended the first quarter.
Jacob Daughrity sparked the Rockets with a nice kickoff return and Richie Smith did the rest, bulldozing his way three consecutive times through the Bulldog defense to re-knot the contest at 14.
The Dawgs came right back, marching 70 yards on eight plays, ending on a 23-yard touchdown pass from McMahon to Justin Black, but the extra-point kick was no good, giving Cornersville a 20-14 lead with 7:20 remaining in the first half.
The Rockets mustered up a nice offensive series, highlighted by two Brooks Lamb completions to McClendon and Daughrity and a crucial fourth down run by Smith.
Smith would get his second touchdown of the game moments later and Andrew Charles' extra point try was true, giving the Rockets the lead for good.
A huge three and out for the Forrest defense after the Smith score essentially ended the first half with the Rockets in front 21-20.
Daughrity returned the second half kickoff to the 46-yard line and on the next play, McClendon heard "Chevy" in the huddle and took the ensuing handoff and dug way through traffic before racing down the visitors' sideline for a 54-yard touchdown.
Charles added the extra point, giving Forrest an uncomfortable eight-point lead at 28-20.
The Bulldogs would get a single first down on their next touch before stalling out, forcing a punt.
After a touchback, Forrest had the ball on the 20-yard line and on second and twelve; Cornersville came up with a crucial turnover when Riner picked off a Lambs pass at the 35-yard line.
The Bulldogs moved their way deep into Forrest territory, but McClendon made a tough fourth down tackle on Small inside the ten to stop the drive with 4:59 left in the third quarter.
The Rockets went backwards on their next drive and had to punt.
The third quarter ended with Cornersville driving the ball to the Forrest 20-yard line.
Forrest stopped the Dawgs on the next plays before Riner came up with a big first down grab at the Rockets' five.
Two plays later, Riner made a circus catch in the end zone for a touchdown, cutting the Forrest lead to 28-26.
Cornersville went for two points, but a false start pushed them back and the conversion was no good.
Forrest punted again on their next touch, but Cornersville gave the ball right back to the Rockets after four plays.
With 4:40 remaining in the game, Cornersville forced a Forrest fumble and Nick Graves came up with the rock, setting his squad up for the potential game winning drive.
McMahon and the Bulldogs went driving as they put together a solid drive with Small running the ball on almost every play, plus a personal foul late hit on McMahon and a pass interference call that put the ball on the FHS 12-yard line.
McClendon came up with a tackle in the backfield and then ganged up with Byron McCullough on another stop, forcing a fourth down and 15 at the FHS 16-yard line.
Victor Palma came on to the attempt the field goal with 6.1 seconds remaining in the ballgame and gave the ball a solid lick, but it hooked just left of the goalpost to end the nail biter in a two-point Forrest win.
It was the 13th win a row for Forrest over Cornersville.
"Our kids fought hard, we had to overcome adversity," said Moos. "At the end they missed a field, we won, they lost, but again, hats off to them, and they did a great job."
McClendon came up with a big night on both sides of the ball, making four tackles and on offense, McClendon rushed the ball 9 times for 85 yards and two touchdowns and he also caught one Lamb pass for 19 yards.
Smith ended up with 55 yards on 16 tough carries and scored twice.
Dakota Zimmerman came up with two nice catches from Lamb for 45 yards and Daughrity had one reception that covered 28 yards.
Lamb finished the game, 4-9 for 92 yards and rushed for 13 yards on five carries.
McCulloch had a huge game on defense for the Rockets, coming up with 15 tackles and ten of those were unassisted.
The Bulldogs' got another great game from their workhorse in Small, who rushed for 127 yards on 32 carries.
McMahon continued to put up great numbers for the season as he went 15-29 for 173 yards and four touchdowns.
"We just came up short," said McMahon. "I thought the field goal went in, but I guess it didn't. We had a chance to win it and I think we both played good. We are 2-3 now and have to step up in this next game versus Loretto."
Both squads have tough district games on Friday with Cornersville (2-3, 1-1) travelling to Loretto (4-2, 3-0), while Forrest (3-2, 1-0) makes a short jaunt over to Eagleville (2-5, 1-1).