Rivals' pride shines at 'The Rock'

Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Photos by Anthony S. Puca The Forrest Alumni Homecoming Court from left is: Scarlett Cook Copeland; Dee Ezell Housch; Mary Holton Williams; Sara Holton Rzemieniewski; Becky Scott Delk; Elizabeth Holton McClaran; Kris Ezell Holton; Marsha Copeland Townsend; Danny (Marlene) Blalock; Beth Moorehead Delk; Dawn Kirksey; Sarah Burns; Ann Marie Odum Powell; Brittany Leonard; Amber Bourland and Becky Bailey Jones.

It was smash mouth football at its best, the way it always has been and the way it will remain.

The "Rumble at the Rock" alumni football game between Forrest and Cascade, played in front of a packed house at Murrey E. Holton Field at Chapel Hill was won 22-16 by Forrest.

"What a great event, what a great rivalry with Cascade and I know the guys all had a good time and I think there were no injuries," Forrest coach Kyle Stacey said. "An event like this lets these guys know, that they're part of this program and we always welcome them back."

Most Valuable Player Taylor Abrigo breaks a long punt return Saturday night that led to Forrest's second touchdown in a 22-16 win against Cascade in the Alumni game at Chapel Hill.

Good times

Was the final score important? You bet, but what stood out more than anything was the pride displayed by both teams and the camaraderie created in the first of two alumni games that will be continued next year at Wartrace.

The average age of the Cascade squad was 27 years old, while the Rockets were slightly older at 31.5.

Steve Turner (32) throws a block for Dominique Johnson (7).

The players' ages ranged from 18 to 55 with former Forrest and Tennessee State University standout Steve Turner leading the way in the graybeard department.

"Wow, It was real good to come back home and play on the field with some younger guys, who 30 years ago, I played with some of their fathers," Turner said. "Just to do this at 55 years old is a blessing and this has always been a great family here, so to come and play and bring money back to the school, I can't miss that."

Turner also led the way on the field, coming up with a huge fourth down, goal line tackle on defense.

Jason "Shooter" Hill displays some of the great open field moves that made him one of the best Forrest running backs in school history.

Forrest responds

Cascade scored the only touchdown of the first quarter when Cameron Farrell busted in from a yard out and Matthew Long added the conversion kick.

Forrest answered quickly when Zach McClendon, the school's career rushing leader, bounced outside for an 11-yard touchdown run.

Devin O'Brien added the extra point to tie the game.

The big play that set up the touchdown was a 46-yard run by Taylor Abrigo, who was voted the game's Most Valuable Player.

"I don't think if we would've played any other team to start this series that we would've ever had it develop the way it did," Abrigo said. "Cascade was just as pumped as us."

Team effort

"It doesn't matter who you are or how old you are, Forrest comes to play as a unit and when we're on the field or off the field, there will always be more than one blue jersey backing you up. That's what Forrest is all about and I can't wait to come back and play with these guys next year."

Cascade threatened again, but a 68-yard drive was thwarted when Thaddeus Reyes intercepted a pass in the end zone.

Forrest fumbled on the next play, but the Rockets' defense remained stout, forcing a Cascade punt.

Abrigo busted another long run after the Cascade punt, leading to Dominique Johnson's 1-yard scoring run with 42 seconds left in the first half.

The Champions added three points on a Long 39-yard field goal by Long that capped off the first drive of the second half.

The Forrest Alumni cheerleaders still got game.

Big leap

The teams exchanged turnovers on the next two possessions, including Dominique Johnson's leaping interception for Forrest.

"That jump took all the energy out of me so I wasn't ready for the run, but I still got something left," Johnson said. "I try to play some basketball every now and then."

"It feels really good to be back out here. I haven't been to a high school game since I left."

On the ensuing drive, the Rockets took a 20-10 lead on Tooter Paul's 11-yard touchdown pass to Tony Johnson.

Joseph Haynes (65), who won the Defensive Player of the Game award for the Rockets, chases down a Cascade ball carrier.

Late in the third quarter, the blast from the past returned in a big way as 2003 alum Joseph Haynes joined with Casey Franklin for a party in the Cascade backfield. Haynes had a sack and another tackle behind the line of scrimmage on consecutive downs before a Franklin sack forced the Champions to punt from their own end zone.

'A blast'

"It was a blast, there was nothing better than that," Haynes said. "I had fun and I'll do it again next year. It brought back memories from 12 years ago."

Forrest drove the ball to the Cascade goal line with a chance to put the game away, but were stuffed on a fourth down play.

On the next Cascade snap, Rockets linebacker Tyler McClendon awoke some not-so-old echoes when he tackled the Champions' ball carrier in the end zone for a safety.

"To tell you the truth, it felt like I never missed a beat, it was like a two-year dead period," the linebacker said. "It was a blast to get out there with the older guys and the idea of it, the bonding that takes place with guys you never played with is great."

Even a scuffle

After the Cascade free kick for the safety, some old wounds were broken open when Jason "Shooter" Hill was grabbed by the facemask on the Cascade sideline, igniting a near brawl.

"It was an absolute blast, being 40 years old coming back out to play with guys I haven't played with or seen in years was just a blast," Hill said.

Both teams were summoned to midfield where tempers were calmed and one unknown Cascade player was heard to say, "This is the way we always play each other, it's nothing but football."

The game resumed with no more incidents and with 1:56 remaining in the contest, Cascade's Christian Edmondson tossed an 11-yard touchdown pass to Chad Dickey to cap off the scoring.

The 2015 Forrest Lady Rockets display their state championship rings that were presented at halftime.

Fundraiser

Alumni Football USA sponsored the game. The organization has now hosted 1,094 alumni football games in 24 states, raising more than $2 million for participating schools.

"We couldn't have done this without the community behind us and I think it was very well orchestrated," said Forrest's Britt Elmore, who was instrumental in putting the game together.

Saturday's game raised $20,000 for the Chapel Hill Touchdown Association, which will use part of the proceeds to purchase a new scoreboard at the field.

Award winners

MVP: Taylor Abrigo

Colin Henson, who was voted Offensive Player of the Game for Forrest, gets ready to sling a pass.

Top offensive player: Colin Henson

Top defensive player: Joseph Haynes

Top special teams player: Dominique Johnson

Oldest:Steve Turner

Forrest vs Cascade Alumni Game

Cascade 7 0 3 6 - 16

Forrest 7 6 7 2 - 22

First Quarter

C -- Cameron Farrell 1 run (Matthew Long kick), 2:41.

Second Quarter

F -- Zach McClendon 11 run (Devin O'Brien kick), 14:50.

F -- Dominique Johnson 1 run (kick failed), 0:42.

Third Quarter

C -- Matthew Long 39 field goal, 12:14.

F -- Tony Johnson 10 pass from Tooter Paul (Brien kick), 9:02.

Fourth Quarter

F -- Tyler McClendon safety, 11:10.

C -- Chad Dickey 11 pass from Christian Edmondson (PAT failed), 1:46.