Rocket pride at all-time high

Friday, August 22, 2014
The 2014 Forrest Rockets (Photo by Vaughn Photography)

2013 Record 8-4, District 9A 5-1 (Second Place) Playoffs 1-1

Coaches

Head Coach-Matt Kriesky 1st Year

Kyle Stacey-Offensive Line Coach/Linebackers

Brent Johns-Offensive Coordinator

Lance Horton-Defense Backs, Wide Receivers Coach

Eli Stephenson-Defensive Line Coach

Austin Stacey-Quarterback Coach/Linebackers

A lot can change in a year's time, exemplified by the Forrest Rockets' football program that will have their third head coach in three years in former defensive coordinator Matt Kriesky, who was the unanimous choice when Brian Coleman left for Summit.

"We don't want to be satisfied making the playoffs, we don't want to be satisfied getting to the second round, our goal is to get to the quarters and the semis and so on," said Kriesky. "You can say that's a lot of pressure, but that is part of the game and everybody's ultimate goal should be to win a state championship. If we are going to sit back here as coaches and a community and say were satisfied with just making the playoffs then we are not good servants to these kids, we are not going to be satisfied with being average, we want to be great around here."

Forrest also lost two program icons in the off-season, beginning with the devastating loss of their cherished coach and mentor Murrey Holton in April, followed by the recent passing of Amy Sweeney Jones, who is taking down the stats and cheering on coach Holton and the Rockets in heaven.

Holton would love this 2014 Rocket squad with the backbone of the team held up with a talented, nasty, and experienced group of lineman on both sides of the line of scrimmage.

Senior lineman Logan Ray (59), opens up a big hole for Chance Hargrove versus Spring Hill. Photo by Anthony S. Puca

Offensive line shines

The offensive line should be the major strength of the ball club this season with Nik McGuiggan anchoring at the center position, while Boone Sweeney, Logan Ray, Neyland Darnell, John Mark Blanchett, Tristen Sawyer, Logan Wright, Blake Leonard, Zach Russell, and Nathan Trout will all get plenty of work in the trenches.

"I'm very excited about them, they are a great group of kids to work with," said offensive line coach Kyle Stacey. "They all have one year under their belt in this system, so they are steps ahead of where they were last year. The continuity is great, they know what we are looking and they know what each other is going to do, so we just have to keep working and get better every week."

The main benefactors from the superb line play will be a stable of talented running backs, beginning with senior Zach McClendon, who should have a huge ground campaign for the Rockets.

McClendon leads the way

"We are going to grind it out each play and eat up the clock as much as possible," said Kriesky. "Our offense is our best defense, last year our offense may not have scored every time, but they kept the defense off the field and they ate up the clock. We are going throw every now and then to keep teams honest."

Senior Zach McClendon (6) will spearhead the Rockets' offense attack this season in Chapel Hill. Photo by Vaughn Photography

McClendon will be joined in a deep backfield by Chance Hargrove, Austin Harmon, Clay Watson, Joseph Williams, Dylan Booker, Landen Jones, and Branson Beech, along with freshmen Dylan Pendley, Bryton Spitzley, Scrappy Osborne, and Troy Turner.

"We are going to rely on Zach McClendon a whole bunch, we relied on his brother Tyler a whole bunch last year, but they are two completely different players," said Forrest offensive coordinator Brent Johns. "Zach is much faster and much quicker, he is a little smaller, but he will do what we need him to do."

Johns has the luxury of having two talented quarterbacks this year in sophomore Jacob Jones and junior David Andrews, who is recovering from an ankle injury.

Forrest head coach Matt Kriesky urges his Forrest squad to play some Rocket football during a timeout in a scrimmage versus Spring Hill. Photo by Anthony S. Puca

Wide open

"The quarterback race is still wide open and they both have shown they can run the offense and they both have similar skill sets, one is a junior and one is a sophomore," said Johns. "One of them will win it out and separate themselves here in the next couple of weeks during these scrimmages."

Freshman signal caller Layton Bennett is waiting in the wings for the Rockets.

The tight end position will also be a strength for Forrest as Logan Hollingsworth, Jesse Pruitt, and Billy Clanton provide the Rockets with some tough, capable pass catchers and blockers.

"Probably our deepest position on the team is tight end, these kids are all tough kids, they are all our outside linebackers as well," said Johns.

The wide out position is manned by Peyton Sisk, Tanner Roberson, Slayton Wild, and Jake Elkins.

'The depth at tight end is allowing us to take one of the more athletic guys like Wild and Roberson and put them out wide and when you put big guys like that perimeter blocking on a shorter corner, we feel it gives us a big advantage," said receivers coach Lance Horton. "We are not going to throw the ball a lot with our style of offense, but when we can get you is when we lull the defense to sleep when they put eight or nine guys in the box and we go over top and catch them off guard. Proof of that last year is a lot of big passing plays and we think we can do that again this year."

Scoring and stopping

Forrest put up a league leading 296 points on offense in District 9A play, while surrendering just 97 points on defense, second to league champions Eagleville, who gave up 86 points.

"It's hard to compare teams unless you put them on the field together, but at this point to me it really feels like we are way more physical than we were at this point a year ago, the practice intensity is way up and our energy and speed level is way up from a year ago." said Johns. "I'm way more comfortable in the offense too, so we are hoping to expand it this year with a few different looks and a few different formations, but we will still be in the same base Wing 'T', running those same base Wing 'T' plays when it matters. We'll run the same play all night if it is working."

Jacob Jones seems to have won the punting duties for the Rockets, nailing some big boots in the pre-season and Javier Rios will provide the Rockets with solid kickoffs and a reasonable shot at some short to medium length field goals.

Photo by Vaughn Photography The 2014 Forrest Rockets Seniors: Front row from left, Chance Hargrove, Nick Tahmassebi, Austin Harmon, and Dylan Booker. Back row from left, Cannon Curtis, Logan Wright, Colton Cook, Blake Leonard, Tanner Roberson, Logan Hollingsworth, Zach McClendon, John Mark Blanchett, and Logan Ray

Harmon, Hargrove, and McClendon will be the return men and any one of the three can provide the big special teams plays that are many times, the difference in the ballgame.

Defense

Kriesky is a defensive coordinator at heart and the head coach takes pride in his stingy bunch of Rockets that should be a formidable unit once again this season.

"People expect a tough hard-nosed defense around here and I love that pressure," said Kriesky. "And I want to make sure we have that tough hard-nosed defense, this is what this community about and this what this town is about."

The defensive line is many of the same players that hold up the offensive line with Hollingsworth and Pruitt on the ends, while the likes of Sweeney, Ray, Sawyer and a host of other big man will work to collapse the middle of the opposing offense.

The linebacker corps are led by Leonard, McClendon, Hargrove, Wild, and Booker, all good athletes that can chase down a ball carrier, rush the quarterback, and stand in the hole and deliver that big hit when called on.

"Defensively, we are going to play that hard-nosed football and have 11 crazy guys running to the football at all times," said Kriesky.

In the defensive backfield is Harmon, Sisk, Jacob Jones, and the hard hitting Anthony Kritz.

Photo by Vaughn Photography 2014 Forrest Football Managers From left, Kathleen Warner, Piper Elmore, Taylor Watson, Baylee, Dowers, and Mariah Oxford.

Outlook

The Rockets have been one of the better Class A teams not to advance past the second round of the TSSAA playoffs over the last several years, including the stinging 26-7 loss at Adamsville last season.

Forrest will have a tough schedule to start the season, going on the road the first three weeks to Lauderdale County, Cascade, and at Moore County before returning home versus the Cornersville Bulldogs on Sept. 12.

After a trip to Eagleville, the Rockets return for Homecoming versus Page on Sept. 26, but pack their bags again the next Friday for their last regular season road trip to Huntland.

Forrest finishes the last four weeks of the season hosting Community, followed by a bye week on Oct. 7 before MTCS and Fayetteville finish off the campaign with two more home games at "The Rock" in Chapel Hill.

If the Rockets can come through the first two weeks of the season with a couple of wins or a win and a loss and take down Moore County in Lynchburg in Week 2, the game at Eagleville could be a pivotal contest that could go a long way to deciding the 9-A title.

The 2014 Forrest cheerleaders: Front row from left, Tamara Duncan, Ashley Luvvorn, Laiken Hollingsworth, and Carson Johnson. Middle row from left, Shelbey Mitchell, Shelby Eden, Morgan Perryman, Brianna Jones, Tamara Mobley, Jacque Meredith, and Sarah Winters. Back row (on ground): Hannah Haynes, Adriana Hardin, and Heidi Ferguson. Back row (in air): Samantha Horner and Kayla Eaton. Photo by Vaughn Photography

Battle of the North and South

The Battle of the North and South is always huge for Forrest and Cornersville and although the outcome won't make any mark in the league standings, pride will be at its highest for both squads.

The Rockets owe Page from last season and would love to garner the big win on Homecoming night in Chapel Hill.

The Rockets should be in position to end the year in style as they have a great chance to run the table, playing the greedy hosts in their three home contests to finish the campaign.

Look for the Rockets to put up an 8-2 overall record this season with an unblemished league record that will propel them into the playoffs, where a trip to the third round will be in order.

"Everybody throws that one out there and talks about going past that second round," said Johns. "But me, I want to win the district title, I want that trophy and everything else will take care of itself."

Forrest Rockets 2014 Schedule

Date Opponent Venue

Aug. 22 Lauderdale County, Alabama Away

Aug. 29 Cascade Away

Sept. 5 Moore County (District) Away

Sept. 12 Cornersville Home

Sept. 19 Eagleville (District) Away

Sept. 26 Page (Homecoming) Home

Oct. 3 Huntland (District) Away

Oct. 10 Community (District) Home

Oct. 17 Bye

Oct. 24 MTCS (District) Home

Oct. 31 Fayetteville (District) Home

2014 Forrest Rockets Roster

No. Name Positon Grade
1 Lane LaPorte WR*DB9
2 Logan Hollingsworth TE*LB*LS 12
3 Branson Beech RB*DB 10
4 Dylan Pendley WR*DB 9
5 Chance Hargrove RB*LB 12
6 Zach McClendon RB*LB 12
7 Layton Bennett QB*DB 9
8 Slayton Wild TE*LB 10
9 Payton Sisk WR*DB 11
10 Austin Harmon RB*DB*PR 12
11 Anthony Jordan WR*DB 11
12 David Andrews QB*DB*H 11
13 Nick Thamassebi WR*LB 12
16 Billy Clanton TE*LB 10
17 Jake Elkins QB*CB 11
18 Anthony Kritz WR*DB 10
19 Sean Higgins WR*DB 10
20 Joseph Williams WR*DB 11
21 Jacob Jones QB*CB*P 10
22 Tanner Roberson TE*LB 12
23 Colton Cook WR*DB 12
24 William Rorabaugh WR*DB 10
25 Troy Turner WR*DB 9
27 Dylan Booker RB*LB 12
28 Garrett Nevison RB*LB 10
29 Spencer Gray WR*DB 10
30 Scrappy Osborne RB*LB 9
32 Jesse Pruitt TE*LB 11
34 Bryton Spitzley RB*LB 9
36 Jarrett Patmore RB*DB 10
38 Clay Watson RB*LB 11
42 Tyler Lester WR*DB 10
45 Landen Jones FB*LB 11
50 Blake Leonard G*LB 12
51 Nik McGuiggan OT*DT 11
52 Tanner Kerr OT*LB 10
54 Austin Geetings OL*DT 9
56 Nick Smith OL 9
57 Cody Donnelly OL 9
59 Logan Ray OT*DT 12
60 John Blanchett OT*DT 12
61 Neyland Darnell OT*DT 11
62 Boone Sweeney OL*DT 11
63 Daniel Johnson OT*LB 10
64 Zach Russell OL*DL 10
66 Dylan Kydd OT*DT 9
67 Mac Ridley OT*DT 9
68 Hank Eddins OT*DT 10
71 Nathan Trout OL*DL 9
72 Triston Sawyer OT*DT 11
74 Allen Williams OT*DT 9
77 Logan Wright OL*DL 12
79 Josh Hill OL*DL 9
80 Colby Bluthardt OL*DL 9
82 Austin Porter WR*DB 9
84 Donte Duncan WR 9
86 Javier Rios K10
87 Josh Brown WR 9
88 Curtis Joseph WR12