Shorthanded Rockets fall

Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Zach McClendon (6) breaks a tackle before scoring on a 39-yard punt return in the first half of the Rockets' 37-27 loss in Huntland Friday night. Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

A shorthanded, battered Rockets squad travelled to Huntland Friday night and gave it all they had before falling 37-27 to the Hornets.

"It was a tough loss for us, we had some key guys out but we can't use that as an excuse," said Forrest head coach Matt Kriesky. "The guys will be fine and I know they will come ready to work on Monday. We have been faced with some adversity the past two weeks, but I feel confident in our guys that they will respond well and finish this season out strong."

It was the first district loss of the season for Forrest (4-3, 1-1), but it was a costly one as the Rockets now find themselves in third place in the league standings, one game behind the Hornets (5-1, 2-0) and Middle Tennessee Christian School (7-0, 3-0).

The Rockets put up plenty of offense to win the game as Zach McClendon rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown, while quarterback David Andrews went 2-4 for 62 yards in the air and threw for one score.

Defensive lapses

The problem for Forrest was their inability in stopping the Hornets, who gained 464 yards of total offense in the contest, rushing for 289 yards and passing for 175.

The Hornets picked up 21 first downs in the game, while the Rockets moved the chains 13 times.

The Rockets stopped Huntland from scoring on just two possessions, once in the first half and again at the end of the game when Huntland took a knee inside the FHS 3-yard line.

"We had them in numerous third down situations, but couldn't get off the field," said Kriesky. "Also, we only stopped them one time all night and you won't win many games when you can't stop the other team. This was very uncharacteristic of our defense, but we will go back to work on Monday to get this fixed."

Strong from start

Huntland received the opening kickoff and marched 84 yards on the Rockets with Hornet quarterback Evan Ray finishing off the drive with a touchdown run.

Forrest could not get any offense going on their first drive of the game and Huntland came back to make it a 10-0 contest when Austin Scott nailed a 36-yard field goal with 4:46 remaining in the first quarter.

The Rockets needed some points and put a nice scoring drive together, going 66 yards on just six plays with McClendon scoring from eight yards out.

Javier Rios booted the extra point, making it 10-7 with 2:19 left in the first quarter.

Scoring drive

Huntland came right back to score, marching 80 yards on the Rockets defense with DJ Taylor capping off the drive with an 8-yard touchdown run.

Scott's extra point was good, giving the Hornets a 17-7 lead at the 9:43 mark of the second quarter.

Forrest put together a six minute, 37 second drive, but were denied a score when the Hornets stopped the Rockets on four consecutive plays inside the 10-yard, taking over on downs at their own 1-yard line with 3:06 remaining in the first half.

The Rockets' defense held, stopping the Hornets on three plays to force a punt by Scott.

McClendon hauled in the punt at the 39-yard line and juked his way down the sidelines and into the Huntland end zone for a touchdown, putting Forrest right back in the ballgame at 17-13.

Lost chance

The game went to the halftime break and the Rockets had a big chance to take the lead as they would receive the second half kickoff, but it was not to be as they fumbled the ball away.

The turnover was costly as the Hornets drove 44 yards after the Forrest fumble, scoring on a Ray 27-yard touchdown strike to Tyler Smith, making it a 24-13 ballgame with 9:46 remaining in the third quarter.

Once again, the resilient Rockets responded as the senior duo running back tandem of McClendon and Chance Hargrove went to work, spitting eight rushes down the middle with McClendon finishing off the drive with a 19-yard touchdown run with 6:04 left in the third quarter.

The Rockets had Huntland trapped at their own 34-yard line, facing a third down and seven, but Ray found Kobe Foster at the 46-yard line for a first down and on the next play, Taylor took it to the house from 54-yards out, making it a 31-20 contest with 3:56 left in the third quarter.

Catching up

Forrest would not quit after the Taylor touchdown, cutting the Huntland lead to 31-27 when Andrews hooked up with Slayton Wild on a 32-yard touchdown pass.

The third quarter came to a close with Huntland facing a third down and 10 to go, but on the second play of the fourth quarter, Ray converted the first down when he threw a swing pass to Taylor for a big 17-yard gain.

Taylor would score on a 14-yard run moments later, giving the Hornets a 37-27 lead after the extra point was blocked by Forrest.

"The defensive will be fine," said Kriesky. "We have to get 11 guys running to the football each play and we did not have that for some reason tonight."

No more chances

Forrest would drive the ball near the mid-field stripe on their next drive, but the Hornets held and took over on downs before running off the remaining 5:28 off the clock to end the game.

Chance Hargrove (5) runs for a first down, getting a nice block by Neyland Darnell (61).

Hargrove finished with 84 yards on a dozen carries for the Rockets in the contest.

Tanner Roberson caught one Andrews pass for 30 yards.

Blake Leonard had a monster game on defense for Forrest, making 15 tackles in the game, while Andrews came up with nine takedowns and Tanner Kerr and Payton Sisk had seven tackles apiece.

Cameron Mahaffey led the Hornets in rushing with 140 yards on 12 carries, while Taylor finished with 118 yards on 27 touches.

Ray completed eight out of 14 pass attempts for 175 yards with Foster catching three passes for 64 yards, Mahaffey had two receptions 58 yards, and Tyler Smith, Cole Ashley, and Taylor all had one catch apiece.

Staying home

The Rockets finish the regular season with three straight home games, beginning with a match-up versus Community (0-6, 0-2) on Friday at the Murrey E. Holton Memorial Field in Chapel Hill.

"I hope we will get some guys back next week, but we will just have to wait and see," said Kriesky. "It looks like Dave Andrews got injured at the end of the game so we will have to see how serious that is tomorrow."

The Rockets get a much-needed bye after the Community game before ending the season with consecutive home games versus MTCS and Fayetteville City (2-4, 1-3).

"The bye week will be huge for us this year and we have to get healthy during that time," said Kriesky. "These last three games are huge for us, each one of them are important, and we are so lucky that they all are at home too."