Rockets fall in try for perfection

Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Troy Turner heads to the end zone on a 42-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca

The Forrest Rockets traveled to Jackson County Friday night with a chance to complete their first unbeaten regular season since 1980, but the Blue Devils outplayed Chapel Hill and came away with a 20-14 win.

"I was disappointed for the seniors because it was their last chance to break it, but we've still met all of our other goals and still have several more to play for," Forrest coach Brent Johns said. "It was tough but, we don't have time to dwell on it. We have to bounce back and put our focus on the playoffs."

Still on top

The Rockets (9-1, 6-1) still won the Region 4/2A title, garnering the number one seed and homefield advantage all the way through the playoffs.

Forrest faces Chattanooga Tyner Academy (4-6, 4-3) in the opening round Friday night at Murrey E. Holton Memorial Field with kickoff scheduled for 7 p.m.

"That was our main goal coming into the regular season because it means homefield advantage throughout the playoffs," Johns said. "I think playing at home is a big advantage for us versus anybody."

After a scoreless first quarter, Jackson County scored on its second drive of the period, marching 76 yards in just eight plays, capped off by a Michael Punzalan 17-yard touchdown catch from Tyler Bowling.

Ian Finch added the extra point for the Blue Devils, who stopped Forrest on its next drove before coming up with a huge score before halftime when Bowling tossed his second touchdown pass of the game, this time a 13-yard strike to Colby Long with 6.6 seconds remaining.

Forrest revives

The Rockets came to life in the third quarter, stopping the Blue Devils on their first drive before putting together a 55-yard scoring drive that was capped off by a Layton Bennett one-yard quarterback keeper with 5:42 left in the period.

Luke Cunningham (23) takes down Jackson County quarterback Tyler Bowling (2).

The Forrest defense came up big again, forcing a Jackson County punt and four plays later, Troy Turner scooted 42 yards for a touchdown and Javier Rios added the PAT, tying the game at 14.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Bowling took off for 75-yard touchdown run, but Finch missed the extra point boot, making 20-14.

Forrest went three-and-out on its next drive and Jackson County had a chance to put the game away, but the Rockets' defense got the stop and the Blue Devils punted the ball into the FHS end zone for a touchback with 3:28 remaining in the contest.

Josh Hill (79) puts pressure on Jackson County quarterback Tyler Bowling (2), forcing him to throw an interception to Wesley McCoy on this second quarter play.

Different offense

Five consecutive running plays by the Rockets moved the ball to the Jackson County 31-yard line where Bennett lofted a fade pass intended for Slayton Wild that was intercepted by Punzalan, who made a great play on the ball.

"The offense that we were running had people out of position due to injuries and I was concerned that the people playing in spots they were not comfortable with in a tight situation could cost us," Johns said about the play call. "The pass play we called is a play we used versus Page for a big first down and we also had that one available versus Watertown and didn't need it."

Zach Russell (64), Nathan Trout (71) and Jacob Jones (21) open up a big hole for running back Wesley McCoy (13).

The Rockets, who dropped from second to fifth in this week's Associated Press Poll are confident that they can put disappointment behind them and come away with a big win Friday night versus the Rams.

"They will be fine, kids get over losses much faster than adults do," Johns said. "That was very evident at film on Sunday and practice on Monday. They have moved on to Tyner."

Forrest 0 0 14 0-14

Jackson County 0 14 0 6-20

Scoring plays

Second quarter

Jackson County-Michael Punzalan 17 pass from Tyler Bowling, Ian Finch PAT, 2:39

Jackson County-Colby Long 13 pass from Bowling, Finch PAT, 0.06

Third quarter

Forrest-Layton Bennett 1 run, Javier Rios PAT, 5:42

Forrest-Troy Turner 42 run, Rios PAT, 1:20

Fourth quarter

Jackson County-Bowling 75 run, PAT NG, 11:45

Total offense-Forrest 229, Jackson County 377

Penalties-Forrest 6-75, Jackson County 7-55

Turnovers-Forrest 1, Jackson County 1

First downs-Forrest 15, Jackson County 15

Forrest Offense

Passing-Layton Bennett 1-5-15-INT

Receiving-Slayton Wild 1-15

Rushing-Troy Turner 7-81-TD, Slayton Wild 14-80, Jacob Jones 8-28, Wesley McCoy 3-22, Parker Stuard 2-12, Michael Dyer 2-5, Luke Cunningham 1-3, Dylan Pendley 1-0, Layton Bennett 3-(-17)-TD

Defense

Tackles-Billy Clanton 10, Michael Dyer 6, Jacob Jones 5, Slayton Wild 5, Wesley McCoy 4 (INT), Nathan Trout 4, Jonathan Lykins 3, Dylan Pendley 3, Troy Turner 3, Garrett Nevison 2, Cole Villazon 2, Zach Russell 1, Bryton Spitzley 1, Parker Stuard 1, Luke Cunningham 1, Austin Geeting 1

Kicking

PAT-Javier Rios 2-2

Punting-Jacob Jones 5-186