Forrest intent on advancing
'Fired up' Rockets focused on winning second-round showdown
The Forrest Rockets (10-1) are tired of hearing about the history of not advancing past the second round of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association football playoffs and they plan to do something about it in the same manner they have for previous games.
Follow the game plan that has gotten them where they are, which is the number one seed in Region 4-AA and the host of a second-round game against the four-time state champion Marion County (10-1).
"These kids are fired up and ready to play this game Friday," Forrest coach Matt Kriesky said. "They'll give their best effort on the field for this community and it's going to be a battle."
It took 29 years to claim an outright region title, so this Forrest squad is used to breaking down barriers from the past and it has no intention of being intimated by the Warriors, who also have been a state runnersup four times. The fourth of those second-place showings came last year in a 34-7 loss to Peabody.
"We've had a great week of practice so far with a lot of energy and they seemed focused each day," Kriesky said. "These guys know what's at stake Friday night."
The fifth-ranked Rockets are in the top half of the 2A bracket that includes seven out of the 10 teams in final Associated Press Top 10 poll released last week.
The murderers row includes top-ranked Boyd Buchanan, Marion County (2), Hampton (4), Rockwood (8), Austin East (9) and Sullivan North (10).
No easy foes
"It is what it is," Kriesky said. "This time of year, they'll all be good football teams and you'll eventually have to face them at some point."
Adamsville (3), Waverly (6) and Trezevant (7) are the other three remaining teams in the poll, and are competing in the bottom half of the bracket.
When Forrest and Marion County meet on Murrey E. Holton Field in Chapel Hill, it will be a match of Forrest's second-ranked defense in Class 2A, against the No. 2 offense in class.
The Rockets have given up 105 points in 11 games (9.5 per game), while the Warriors have scored 457 points (42/game).
"We'll have to do a better job running to the football and wrapping up the ball carrier," Kriesky said. "They run a fast-paced offense so we'll have to be ready for that also."
On the other side of the coin, is a prolific Forrest offense that has scored 399 points (36.3/game), going up against a Marion County defense that has given up 136 (12.7/game).
Forrest's specialty is running the football and they do it well, rushing 509 times for 3,342 yards and 49 touchdowns.
"We'll have to play four quarters of smash-mouth football and get after them every play," Kriesky said. "Special teams will also be a huge factor and we can't afford to give up a touchdown in that area."
Leading the way in the rushing department for the Rockets is junior Slayton Wild, who has gained 715 yards on 98 carries with nine touchdowns.
Out this week injured are Forrest's second-leading rusher in Jake Elkins (667 yards, 10 TD) and all-purpose player Jacob Jones (411 yards, 6 TD).
"They'll be out Friday night with the possibility of a couple of others too," Kriesky said. "That means we'll have to have some other guys step up in those spots."
Stars in action
The game also will feature three Mr. Football semifinalists with Forrest's Boone Sweeney and Marion County's Alex Kirkendoll competing in the lineman category, while the Warriors' Josh Henderson is one of four semifinalists for the Back of the Year.
Clear, cool weather is the forecast for the game at "The Rock."
"It would be great to have a big crowd at the game to show support to these young men," Kriesky said. "We all know that Marion will bring their whole town to Chapel Hill Friday night. It should be a great night of high school football with two of the top teams in 2A."