Forrest alumni crush Champs
After a close 22-16 win at Murrey E. Holton Field last year, the Forrest alumni football team had the daunting task of closing the two-game series with a trip to Wartrace where they were more than up to the task, blasting the Cascade Champions 28-0.
"These last two years have been the most fun I have ever had, playing on this team with great guys," Forrest quarterback Tooter Paul said. "Actually I had never beaten Cascade, so for me to come back and redeem ourselves, you can't beat the feeling."
It's a rivalry that goes way back and is deep in bad and good memories for members of both squads, but just like last year at Chapel Hill, the contest was played with honor and integrity until a ruckus caused by a late Cascade hit on the Forrest sidelines was enough for the promotor from Alumni Football USA and the game was called with just under two minutes to go in the fourth quarter to prevent any injuries.
Another Rocket old-timer Brian Todd said, "We had about eight to 10 guys in their mid-thirties up to 40 and we had a lot of young guys, so we want thank them for coming over here and log all those key minutes. "I know we had some trouble over here in the early 2000's, so it was good to come out here and put it on them."
Asked if this would be his last game, Todd said, "Maybe none, maybe four or five, it all depends on the health."
The Rockets received the opening kickoff and opened play from scrimmage with some early trickery as Rocket quarterback Thaddeus Reyes faked a handoff up inside before finding his tight end Jonathan Anderson wide open near the Forrest sideline where Anderson proceeded to race for the touchdown.
"Honestly, this is the funnest game I ever played, when you get out here with all these older guys, it's just awesome," Reyes said. "Tooter coached me when I was in pee-wee, now I'm out here playing with and all the guys I looked up to."
Devin O'Brien, who finished 4-for-4 on PAT kicks in the game made it 7-0 when he booted the pigskin through the uprights with 11:45 remaining in the first quarter.
Forrest's other kicker in the game, Angel Reyes, known during his high school career for drilling kickoffs out the end zone for touchbacks, executed the first of his 4-for-4 night, setting Cascade back at the 20-yard line.
The Forrest defense, which corralled the Champions all night, got a big third down tackle by Tyler McClendon, forcing a Cascade punt after a three-and-out.
Defensive MVP Blake Leonard talked about the experience, saying, "Every generation plays different and whenever it all comes together and collaborates at the same, that's the best feeling. When my friends ask me 'should I play in the Alumni game' I say 'yeah, I put it in my top five."
The Rockets took the uncontested kickoff at their 34-yard line and put the horses up front to work, running the ball eight consecutive times that culminated with a Dominique Johnson 3-yard touchdown run and after the O'Brien PAT boot, Forrest led 14-0 with 5:31 remaining in the first quarter.
"It was a lot fun, it's always fun to get out here and do it again with the guys I played with and the guys I played against," Johnson said. "You here about a lot of the guys back when you were playing, but you never had a chance to step on the field with them, so when you get a chance the comradery is crazy, it's like you never played together and then like you always played together."
The Champions, once again starting from their 20-yard line and put together their best offensive series of the game, driving all the way inside the Forrest twenty, before Logan "Deuce" Hollingsworth put out the Cascade flame when he sacked quarter Ryan Webb on a fourth down play at the 18-yard line.
Forrest went three-and-out on its next possession before an O'Brien sack on fourth down halted the next Cascade drive.
Cascade stopped Forrest again on three plays, getting the ball back on a punt, but Jacob Daughrity came up with a Champion fumble three plays later with 1:16 left in the first half.
Instead of running out the clock, Forrest coach Matthew Delk elected to go for the jugular and it paid off after Reyes scooted to the Cascade one-yard on a fourth down run, setting up Tooter Paul's first career high school related touchdown run with 3.5 seconds remaining in the first half.
"It was a little weird that Thaddeus ran 40 yards and ran out of gas there at the one inch line and then called me in," Paul said. "It was exciting, these guys put me in good situations because they knew it was my last year. I love these guys, it was fun."
O'Brien's boot was true, giving Forrest a huge 21-0 lead at the half.
The second half began with Cascade going nowhere again on offense as the Rockets forced another three-and-out, including a sack by last year's Class A Mr. Football Lineman of the Year Boone Sweeney.
"Man, that was crazy, it was nothing even close to high school ball, it was so fun," Sweeney said. "It's great coming over here to Cascade and getting a big 'W' with all those boys, we got the shutout."
After a Champions' punt, Forrest ran three plays before facing a fourth down and three yards to go.
Tyler McClendon came up huge again, plowing for a first down that set up a Paul 27-yard touchdown strike to Zach McClendon three plays later, making it 27-zip.
O'Brien nailed the extra point and on the next Cascade series, Forrest came up with another turnover, recovering a fumble early in the fourth quarter.
From there, both teams did not muster much offense and the game ended after the late hit by Cascade's Ivan Spencer.
Thaddeus Reyes was the named game MVP, Paul was the offensive MVP, Angel Reyes garnered special teams MVP and Andy Todd won the award for the Rockets elder statesman at 40-years old.
A year off
According to sources close to the Forrest alumni squad, the Rockets alumni will more than likely take a year off before trying to set up another series versus the Cornersville Bulldogs.
Delk, a Forrest varsity coach picked up his first win at Cascade and said after the game, "It was a big win for the Forrest alumni tonight, it was a hundred percent all them. I want to give the credit to Tony Johnson, Tooter Paul, Tyler Strong and Daryl Branson. All I did was show up, they gave me a play sheet and we had a little fun out there tonight. It was big for the community and now we are getting ready for Huntland on Friday night and we are expecting the town out for that one too."
Forrest 14 7 7 0-28
Cascade 0 0 0 0-0
Forrest-Jonathon Anderson 60 pass from Thaddeus Reyes, Devin O'Brien PAT. 11:45 7-0
Forrest-Dominique Johnson 3 run, O'Brien PAT. 9:01 14-0
Forrest-Tooter Paul 1 run, O'Brien PAT. 3.5 seconds 21-0
Forrest-Zach McClendon 27 pass from Paul, O'Brien PAT. 6:24 28-0