Three Rockets sign with Bethel University

Sunday, February 19, 2017
Front row from left at the signing are, Anthony Kritz, Luke Cunningham and Michael Dyer. Back row are Forrest coaches Kyle Stacey, Eli Stephenson, Brent Johns, Matthew Delk and Colin Henson.
Photo submitted

Forrest seniors Anthony Kritz, Michael Dyer and Luke Cunningham will be playing football together again in college as the Rockets’ trio recently signed Letter of Intents to attend Bethel University at McKenzie next season.

“We were very proud to have three more Forrest Rockets sign scholarships to continue their football careers,” Forrest coach Brent Johns said. “It shows our younger kids that you don’t have to play at a larger school to get a football scholarship. If you are good enough they will eventually find you.”

After the saturation on National Signing Day earlier this month when most of the higher profile players chose their future schools, the second wave of signees got their chance when the smaller schools came calling to fill their rosters.

It was not an overnight happening for the three Rockets, who all had visits and subsequent offers with Bethel University and Cumberland University at Lebanon.

“After discussing the offers with their families they all three felt that Bethel was the better offer and the better fit academically as well as football wise,” Johns said.

The Bethel University Wildcats, who posted a 7-4 overall record in 2016, are part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division I level and compete in the Mid-South Conference where they finished with a 1-4 league record.

Kritz is a two-time all-region selection at defensive back, including this year when his season was cut short on an injury.

“He’s (Kritz) a very reliable player and I'm just so glad that he gets another shot to prove to everyone how good of a football player he really is,” Johns stated.

Kritz quickly developed into the leader in the secondary in the 2014-2015 season under former coach Matt Kriesky, becoming a physical presence with unique ball hawking skills that led to three interceptions.

“Coach Matt Kriesky deserves a ton of credit for his work in developing Anthony as a player as well as a person during his time at Forrest,” Johns said. “This year we just reaped the benefits of the time put in in previous years by Kritz and Coach ‘K’.”

In 2016 Kritz was the shutdown corner every great defense needs to be successful and he was on his way to a huge season when he suffered a season-ending injury halfway through the campaign.

Kritz matched his 2015 interception mark, picking off three passes in five games, including a pair of picks in the Rockets’ big 21-14 win at 4A Page.

Kritz also played wide receiver for the Rockets in 2016, catching four passes and one that went for a 29-yard touchdown in Forrest’s 43-7 shellacking over longtime archrival Cascade.

Dyer played two seasons for the Rockets and after a learning campaign and some quality time at wide receiver in 2015, Dyer worked his way into the starting lineup in 2016 at wide out and defensive back and eventually took over the top cornerback spot after Kritz’ injury.

Dyer’s efforts earned him an all-region spot and a serious look from potential college programs.

“I don’t feel like his total football potential has been tapped yet,” Johns said. “This year after the injury to Kritz he was the leader of our secondary the entire second half of the season.”

Dyer tied Kritz for the team lead in interceptions with three, including the game-ending pick in Forrest’s come from behind 21-14 first-round playoff win over Tyner Academy.

Dyer caught two passes this season, with one reception turning into a 36-yard touchdown in the Rockets’ opening day 35-0 shutout win versus Huntland.

Cunningham played only one season for the Rockets, but it will go down as one of the more memorable and inspiring performances in a long time in Chapel Hill.

Talk about exciting!

Every time Cunningham got the ball in his hands at the wide receiver positon he was looking to score, exemplified by his 30.9 yards per catch on nine receptions for 278 yards.

“Luke’s football potential has definitely not been fully tapped, by the time we taught him the basics of what to do the season was half over,” Johns said. “I'm super excited to see what the Bethel coaching staff can do with him over the next few years.”

Cunningham only had two touchdowns on the season, including a 58-yard score on a circus catch in a win over Watertown that was a big part in Forrest’s seventh consecutive victory to start the season.

The all-region selection also had a 30-yard touchdown catch versus East Robertson, a rambling 70-yard juggling grab at Eagleville, but his biggest reception came on a fourth-and-seven play with less than a minute to go in the playoff contest versus Tyner when Cunningham made an incredible game changing snag on a deflected pass for a first down.

Three plays later the Rockets scored to win the game.

“Luke was a great weapon for us in the second half of the season, especially versus Watertown and Tyner,” Johns said “His catch against Tyner saved our season from ending in round one.”

The following week, Cunningham had two catches versus Marion County, but it wasn’t enough as the Rockets fell 55-14 to the Warriors.

Cunningham also played in every game at defensive back and had 19 tackles, plus an interception in Forrest’s 42-0 win at Community.

Cunningham and Dyer have one more sports season left with the Forrest baseball team.