Forrest buries Cougars 49-14
The Forrest Rockets needed the bye week as much as any squad in Class 2A and it paid off when a bevy of injured players healed up or returned to action to take part in a huge 49-14 blowout win Friday night at Murrey E. Holton Field in Chapel Hill over previously unbeaten and No. 7 ranked Middle Tennessee Christian School.
"That was a huge statement game, anytime you can hold Middle Tennessee Christian to 14 points is huge," said Forrest head coach Matt Kriesky. "They are a very athletic team, so for our kids to come out and play the way they did, I'm proud of them. I can't say enough about them or what they did tonight, we've had some injuries and some ups and downs, but I think we are getting back on the right track where we started the season out and I am proud of each and every one of these kids."
Forrest rushed for 446 yards in the contest with Rocket standout running back Zach McClendon putting the finishing touches on what should be a Mr. Football nomination as the senior rushed for 273 yards and two touchdowns, while also tossing a touchdown pass on a halfback option that put the game away in the first half.
McClendon, who also had two touchdown runs called back on penalties in the contest, has rushed for 1,685 yards on the season, which leaves him just 37 yards shy of Zach Ray's single-season school record of 1,695 yards set in 2010.
"I'm proud of Zach, I told one way we were going to win was for him to play in the secondary this week and be on the field for 80 or 90 plays," said Kriesky. "I believe he was on the field for more than that and he did what we asked him to do, he's another one of those seniors that doesn't want to come off the field and I'm proud of him."
Forrest wasted no time zooming off the Launchpad versus the Cougars, driving 60 yards in just four plays on the game's initial drive with Chance Hargrove busting in from five yards out for the score.
The Forrest defense, which held the potent MTCS offense in check most of the night, forced a three-and-out after the Hargrove touchdown and proceeded to drive down the field from 60 yards out again, this time on five plays with McClendon scoring on a 30-yard touchdown scamper.
Javier Rios booted his second consecutive extra point, making it 14-0 Rockets with 6:53 remaining in the first quarter.
The Cougars, on verge of being run over, struck back fast via a first down Justin Winn 73-yard touchdown pass to Austin Melton.
The two-point conversion was no good for MTCS, who stopped Forrest's next drive and took over on their own 18-yard line after a punt by the Rockets.
Stop leads to score
The Cougars marched towards the mid-field stripe when they coughed the ball up and Logan Hollingsworth recovered with 1:03 remaining in the opening period.
The Rockets went marching again, moving to the Cougars' 13-yard line where Rocket quarterback Jacob Jones tossed a touchdown pass to Slayton Wild, making 21-6 after Rios' extra point boot split the uprights.
Forrest forced another Cougar three-and-out and with 5:25 remaining in the first half, Hargrove capped off another 60-yard scoring drive with a 15-yard touchdown run.
The Cougars could not move the football very far and had to punt again with 3:20 left in the first half, setting up the Rockets, who drove at will versus MTCS before McClendon took a pitch from Jones and tossed a perfect 37-yard touchdown pass to Payton Sisk.
Rios' extra point put the game on ice at 35-6 before the halftime horn sounded in Chapel Hill.
The Cougars would score on their first possession of the second half and stopped the Rockets before going on another drive that could have tightened the game up, but Forrest stopped MTCS on a fourth down play at the six-yard line with 5:13 remaining in the third quarter.
"That was huge, they could have gotten to 21 and gained a lot of momentum," said Kriesky. "Our kids buckled down, executed, and did what we asked them to do defensively. They were in trips there, single receiver side and Chance Hargrove came up with the big fourth down stop."
The Rockets went on a back-breaking, nine-play drive that was capped off on an 11-yard touchdown run by Hollingsworth, making it 41-14.
After another stop and a subsequent MTCS punt, McClendon iced the cake with an 89-yard touchdown jaunt on first down, invoking the TSSAA 35-point mercy rule at 49-14 with 8:53 remaining in the contest.
'A huge game'
Forrest (6-3, 4-1) finishes off their regular slate when they host Fayetteville (2-7, 1-4) Friday night at "The Rock" for senior night.
"This is huge game, Fayetteville City is very athletic and a good team," said Kriesky. Their record may not indicate it, but we have seen them on film as we have been working on other people throughout the year and they are a very athletic team, quarterback, running back that can get to the outside, so we have to contain them like we did this week."
The second place Rockets need some help from the Cougars (8-1, 4-1) this week, when they travel to Huntland (8-1, 5-0) to take on the District 9A first place Hornets.
Hargrove finished with 72 yards on eight carries, while Austin Harmon made his return to the lineup and had 47 yards on nine touches.
Hollingsworth rushed for 32 yards and caught one pass for 32 yards and Joseph Williams gained 20 yards on the ground on three carries.
Jones had a solid night behind center for the Rockets, completing three out of four passes for 50 yards and a touchdown.
Blake Leonard led the stellar defensive effort for the Rockets with eight tackles, Wild had seven takedowns and a sack, Hollingsworth, McClendon, Anthony Kritz, and Boone Sweeney all had six tackles apiece, while Logan Ray had five tackles and a quarterback sack and Dylan Booker also had five tackles.