Forrest prevails in Rocket skirmish
The Forrest Middle School Rockets played host to their namesakes from Manchester Thursday night at "The Rock" in Chapel Hill and after a close first half, the hometown boys pulled away for a 44-30 win to remain undefeated on the season at 4-0.
FMS pounded the rock the entire game versus Westwood, rushing the ball 39 times for 454 yards as eighth-grader Wesley McCoy led the way with two long touchdown runs included in his ten totes of the pigskin that added up to 225 yards.
"The boys ran the ball hard tonight, McCoy, Ethridge, McClendon, Sweeney, Sisk, and Moretti," said FMS head coach Bart Joyce. "Everybody ran the ball hard and they had some good blocking up front for them too, our offensive line has been solid, along with the running backs, they just keep pounding."
Evan Ethridge was the workhorse on the night for Joyce and the Rockets, bulldozing his way to 159 yards on 16 carries, while scoring two rushing touchdowns.
Nik McClendon was hobbled with a sore ankle most of the game, but still managed to score twice and rush for 46 yards on eight carries.
Anthony Moretti had 15 yards on two carries, while Harley Sisk added six yards, and Blaze Sweeney had two touches for three yards.
Westwood fumbled the opening kickoff and Pryor Haines recovered for Forrest, setting up an Ethridge 24-yard touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage for FMS.
The PAT was no good, giving the Rockets an early 6-0 lead.
"That first drive was huge," said Joyce. "It kind of let them know we were going to come at you, run our game and come at you."
Both squads were forced to punt on the ensuing possessions and on the FMS punt, Westwood's Marcus Pendleton took it to the house from 82 yards out, but Manchester missed the PAT, resulting in a 6-6 tie with 2:54 remaining in the first quarter.
FMS started their next drive at the Westwood 37-yard line and McCoy wasted little time putting Forrest up for good when he raced 63 yards for a touchdown on the first snap.
McClendon added the two-point conversion for FMS, who came back on defense to stop Westwood on a fourth down play at the Forrest 17-yard line.
Once again, McCoy made them pay on the very first play when he took off for an 83-yard touchdown jaunt.
McClendon bashed in for another two points as FMS stretched their lead to 22-6 with 6:22 remaining in the first half.
Westwood responded one minute later, scoring on a fourth down play when Jake Hollandsworth found a wide open Byron Sullivan behind the Forrest defense on a 59-yard touchdown strike.
The Rockets took over and went on an eight play drive that burned four minutes off the clock, but Westwood stopped the Rockets on downs at the 29-yard line with 46 seconds left in the first half.
Instead of going to the locker room, Westwood tried a pass and Josh Meglis intercepted the ball at the 32-yard line.
Two plays later, McClendon was in the end zone and Ethridge converted the PAT run, giving FMS a big 30-12 halftime lead.
Forrest took the second half kickoff and ran the ball seven straight times, scoring on a 44-yard Ethridge TD run after a holding penalty brought back a McCoy touchdown.
Ethridge busted in for the two-point conversion, giving the Rockets a commanding 38-12 lead.
"That broke their backs, we stepped up and boom, we got it done," said Joyce.
After the ensuing kickoff, Sullivan scored on the next play, slicing the FMS defense for 52 yards, but the PAT was no good.
Undeterred, the hometown boys put together a bruising 65 yard drive that chewed up a little over three minutes off the clock, capped off by a McClendon one-yard touchdown run, making it 44-18 Rockets.
Westwood would score two fourth quarter touchdowns as Forrest substituted liberally.
The Rockets will be on the road next Thursday when they travel to Fayetteville to take on a talented Tigers' squad.
"Another big conference game and we need this one," said Joyce. "Of course they are always athletic, so we just have to match up with them. We will go back to work next week, get a game plan together and go right at them and see what happens."