One Wild finish for Rockets

Wednesday, November 16, 2016
2016 Tennessee Titans Mr. Football semifinalist Slayton Wild hauls in the go-ahead touchdown pass from Layton Bennett with 27 seconds remaining in the contest. Tribune photos by Anthony S. Puca and Gary Johnson

Over 1,200 fans witnessed a classic TSSAA Class 2A playoff game Friday night at Murrey E. Holton Memorial Field as the Forrest Rockets (11-1) came back to win for the second week in a row, marking the first time in school history that Chapel Hill has won a second round postseason game and accumulated 11 wins in a season.

"We honestly all week did not mention that," Johns said. "We always have in the past and I think that was the difference----we looked at one game at a time, all those losses were in the past and this team has never lost a second round playoff game."

Johns also talked about making history on a field named after his former coach and longtime family friend, saying, "I just wish he was here to see it."

Few scores

It was a low scoring affair in a ground and pound contest, including five lead changes and the game was not decided until the very last tick of the clock with the Rockets prevailing 16-13 over Meigs County (10-2).

Tennessee Titans Lineman of the Year Award semifinalist Slayton Wild was one of many heroes for the Rockets, who will entertain Marion County (11-1) Friday in the quarterfinals.

"That was a dang good football right there," Wild said. "Big props to Meigs County, they are a great football team.

"We just jumped on them quick and didn't slow up," Wild added. "They scored an early second half touchdown, but that didn't stop us from what we wanted to do, we kept pounding and pounding and pounding and came away with the win."

Final moments

Trailing 13-10 with 27 seconds left in the ballgame, Wild hauled in a 29-yard touchdown pass from Layton Bennett, fighting off double coverage and a scramble for the ball in the end zone.

A missed PAT gave the Tigers a slim glimmer of hope and in a wild act of total trickery, Meigs County came up with a play that fooled the Rockets when some kind of ground ball ended up in the hands of running back Zy Moore, who ran open down the visitor sidelines before Nick McClendon forced him out of bounds at the 16-yard line with one second left in the game.

Parker Stuard (22) comes up with the first of his two interceptions on the night, including the game clincher as time ran out on the Tigers.

Meigs County freshman quarterback Aaron Swafford, who had thrown for two touchdown passes in the game, fired a pass into the end zone that was intercepted by Parker Stuard, who instead of falling down to end the game, tried to run it out and the ball popped out, but was recovered by the Rockets and a small melee ensued that quickly evaporated when emotions settled down.

Opening drive

The Tigers won the opening coin toss, electing to receive and immediately went on a long drive that ended on the Forrest 5-yard line when the Rockets stuffed Moore on a fourth down play with 6:10 remaining in the first quarter.

Forrest went three-and-out on its first offensive series and then proceeded to stop Meigs County.

The Rockets put together some offense on their next drive as Troy Turner came up with two first down runs and Luke Cunningham hauled in a 34-yard pass at the Meigs County 20-yard line.

Although they failed to score a touchdown, Forrest broke out in front on a Javier Rios 31-yard field goal with 9:28 remaining on the second quarter.

Meigs on move

Both squads punted on consecutive possessions before Meigs County went on the move again, driving to the Forrest 21-yard line where Stuard picked off Swafford at the 3-yard line with 1:44 remaining in the first half that ended with the Rockets holding the 3-0 lead.

The Tigers forced a three-and-out on the Rockets' opening touch of the second half before Moore took it to the house from 53 yards out on the first play of the ensuing drive, but the PAT was no good, making it 6-3 with 10:08 left in the third quarter.

Forrest could not move the football on its next drive and forced Meigs County to punt on its next series, getting a huge break when the punt was shanked, giving the Rockets great field position at the Tigers' 45-yard line.

Troy Turner runs for a 42-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

Turner ran for three yards on first down and on the next play, the junior running back covered the remaining 42 yards to the end zone for a touchdown, making it 10-6 after a successful Rios PAT with 5:16 left in the third quarter.

Fourth quarter

Both squads punted on their next offensive series, sending the game to the fourth quarter where the Tigers went eight plays for the go-ahead touchdown on a Moore 14-yard run.

Garrin Robinson's PAT was true, putting the Tigers in front 13-10 with 7:44 remaining in the contest.

The Rockets drove the ball to the Meigs County 29-yard, but were stuffed on a fourth down play with 3:33 left in the game as history looked once again, not to be on the Rockets' side.

Final chance

The Rockets burned two out of their three timeouts as the Tigers drove to the 45-yard before Forrest got a fortuitous holding call that forced a Meigs County punt with 1:22 left.

Jacob Jones returned the ensuing punt to the Tigers' 45-line where Bennett hit Wild for a five-yard gain on first down and a screen pass to Jones on the next play moved the ball to the 29 for a first down.

Bennett spiked the ball to kill the clock and on second down, the junior signal caller evaded a Tiger rusher and lofted the ball to the end zone where Wild came down with the go-ahead score.

"First of all that was a great pass from my quarterback and I would have never been able to make that catch without that pass," Wild said. "He had it, I had it, he had it, I had it, he had it, but then I just had the determination to come out of there with it and we came out with the win."

'Best thing...

After a first-down incompletion, Meigs County called timeout where they called for the trick play that put them in position to win the game, but Stuard saved the day for the Rockets with his end zone pick.

Nathan Trout (71), who had eight tackles in the game, swallows up Meigs County's quarterback Aaron Swafford.

"That was the best thing I've ever seen," Forrest defensive coordinator Eli Stephenson said about the Stuard interception. "Before that they got us on a trick play, but we bowed up down on the goal line and these boys kept fighting until the last whistle. This defense plays hard and they get after it every week, I just love these guys."

Forrest faces a Marion County team that has beaten the Rockets twice at home in the playoffs, including last year's season ending 38-10 loss to the Warriors, who advanced all the way to championship game where they lost 40-35 to Trezevant.

Forrest coach Brent Johns is fired up in the postgame huddle after a heated exchange with the Meigs County coaches, following a wild last play of the game.

"We don't care who it is, we deserve to be playing," Johns said.

Meigs County 0 0 6 7-13

Forrest 0 3 7 6-16

Scoring plays

Second quarter

Forrest-Javier Rios 31 yard field goal, 9:28

Third quarter

Meigs County-Zy Moore 57, PAT NG, 10:08

Forrest-Troy Turner 42 run, Rios PAT, 5:16

Fourth quarter

Meigs County-Moore 14 run, Camryn Harris PAT, 7:44

Forrest-Slayton Wild 29 pass from Hunter Bennett, PAT NG, 0:27

Total Offense-Meigs County 362, Forrest 258

Rushing-Meigs County 314, Forrest 176

Passing-Meigs County 48, Forrest 82

First downs-Meigs County 14, Forrest 12

Penalties-Meigs County 10-95, Forrest 2-10

Turnovers-Meigs County 2, Forrest 0

Forrest offense

Passing-Layton Bennett 4-8-82-TD

Receiving-Slayton Wild 2-35-TD, Luke Cunningham 1-34, Jacob Jones 1-13

Rushing-Troy Turner 7-94-TD, Nick McClendon 8-41, Jacob Jones 6-19, Slayton Wild 9-19, Wesley McCoy 4-11, Parker Stuard 3-1, Layton Bennett 1-(-9)

Defense

Tackles-Billy Clanton 11, Nathan Trout 8, Troy Turner 6, Michael Dyer 4, Jacob Jones 4, Wesley McCoy 4, Garrett Nevison 4, Dylan Pendley 4, Austin Geeting 3, Cole Villazon 3, Jonathan Lykins 2, Parker Stuard 2 (2INT), Blaize Sweeney 1, Luke Cunningham 1, Josh Hill 1, Zach Russell 1, Slayton Wild 1

Kicking

Field goals-Javier Rios 1-1-32 yards, PAT 1-2

Punting-Jacob Jones 5-187-37.4

Returns

Kickoffs-Wesley McCoy 1-19, Slayton Wild 2-9

Punts-Jacob Jones 1-8