The Forrest Rockets bounced back from a lopsided road loss at Marion County last week with a big Region 5-AA win at Cascade Friday night, toppling the unbeaten Champions 24-7.
“I knew that they would take what they learned from Marion County and get batter during the week and come out and play hardnosed football,” Forrest coach Eli Stephenson said. “We had a tough week of practice and we came out and brought it to the field and we played four quarters and they gave it their all.”
The defense turned in a superb effort, holding Cascade scoreless for three quarters while the offense and the special teams staked the Rockets to a 14-0 lead.
Forrest (5-2, 3-0) has allowed just one touchdown in each of its three region games this season, outscoring league opponents 70-21.
The Champions had nine offensive possessions in the contest with three in the first half that ended on back-to-back three-and-outs and a missed Cascade field goal.
“Both teams wanted to run the ball, both teams wanted to play physical football, and it’s the kind of game we love and want to play every week,” Stephenson said. “Our kids knew they had to come in and play physical football to win. I told them all week the team that tackled and blocked the best would win the ballgame and our kids did a heck of a job.”
Cascade won the coin toss and deferred, sending the Forrest offense on the field first and they got the turnover bug out of the way early as a fumble spoiled the Rockets’ opening effort.
On their second offensive possession, Forrest cashed in as they put together a six-minute plus drive that spanned 62 yards on 12 plays with Hunter Bennett scoring on a 1-yard quarterback keeper.
Gavin Grissom booted the first of his three successful extra points in the game to make it 7-0 with 21 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
The Champions had to punt again after just three plays and then turned the tables on the Rockets, forcing a three-and-out before finally getting some offense going, driving to the Forrest six-yard line where a third down stop by Chapel Hill forced a short 22-yard field that was no good with 27 seconds remaining in the first half.
In the second half, Cascade received the kickoff and was forced to punt after three downs, but the Rockets could not add to the scoring as they punted the ball away on a three-and-out.
On Cascade’s next offensive play, Tayton Swift came up with an interception for the Rockets, but they could not take advantage of the turnover and punted the ball back to the Champions.
The Forrest defense turned up the pressure cooker as Layne Strasser came up with a sack on first down and from there, the Champions went in reverse, eventually facing a fourth-and-long and another punt.
Brenton Burchell fielded the punt at the Cascade 36-yard line and cut towards the Cascade sideline where he outraced all the defenders to the end zone and the Rockets led 14-0 with 29 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
With their backs against the wall, the undefeated Champions responded when quarterback Ryan Inmon took a snap on third-and-three and raced 75 yards untouched to end zone for a touchdown and a Drake Hodge extra point cut the Forrest lead in half at 14-7 with 11:03 remaining in the contest.
Cascade had 228 yards of total offense in the game with Inmon accounting for 201 as the senior quarterback rushed for 139 yards on 21 carries and threw for 62 yards.
On the Rockets’ next offensive possession it looked like the Champions had a stop, but a facemask penalty on a sack gave Forrest new life and they cashed in when Grissom nailed a 25-yard field goal to make it 17-7 with 4:36 remaining in the contest.
Cascade moved the ball to the midfield stripe on its next drive before McCalister Wilson came up with a huge interception and on the return he fumbled, but Chris Davis recovered for the Rockets, who had great field position at the Champions’ 29-yard line.
“Our defense has been playing well all year, they are Ballhawks and are fundamentally sound,” Stephenson said. “Mac is one of our leaders on defense, so that was huge to get that momentum and it sealed the game for us.”
Bennett ran the ball for a 12-yard gain on first down before taking it to the house on second and the Rockets were in control with a 24-7 lead with 2:24 remaining in the contest.
The Champions drove to the Forrest 32-yard line, but time ran out and the Rockets had the win.
“This was a huge step, Cascade has a real good team, they were 6-0 and we came in and had to knock them off and it put us in the driver’s seat in the region,” Stephenson said. “Its nice spot to be in right now, we have a week off, so we some time to heal some bumps and bruises and we will be ready for Richland in two weeks.”
Chapel Hill put up 267 yards of offense with 220 coming on the ground, led by Davis who rushed for 86 yards on eight touches.
Bennett had seven carries for 48 yards and two touchdowns, Burchell carried the rock eight times for 29 yards, Swift ran for 23 yards on seven touches, Wilson had 22 yards on five carries, and Liam Bell had six carries for 12 yards.
Bennett went 2-for-5 for 47 yards with Christian Hammond catching both balls for receptions of 26 and 11 yards.
“Coach (Stephenson) told us all week that we had a bad taste in our mouth coming off that big loss,” Hammond said. “We knew they had a 6-0 season and our job was to come here and win.”
“Coach has been telling us to be more prepared, have more adrenaline, and just be ready in general to hit them all four quarters of the game and that’s what we did.”
Forrest is on a bye week and finishes up the three-game road swing when they travel to Richland (3-3, 1-2) on October 15 for another Region 5-AA contest.
“This will give us time to kind of scout ourselves and for our kids to heal up a little bit,” Stephenson said. “We have played seven weeks without a break and now we get a week off and we get a chance to heal up, get away from football for a little bit and come back with a new focus.”
The Rockets are 4-2 versus the Raiders since 2003 and have won three straight in 2010 (35-0), 2009 (26-7), and 2006 (24-21).
“I think every game we have improved in at least one aspect of the game and compared to the beginning, we have come a long way,” Wilson said. “Right now where we have to improve is turnovers and holding our blocks, so with this week to heal some of our bruises we get to work on those a lot.”
The Rockets finish out the regular season with home games versus East Robertson and Mt. Pleasant.
Forrest 7 0 7 10-24
Cascade 0 0 0 7-0
Forrest-Hunter Bennett 1 run, Gavin Grissom kick, 0:21
Forrest-Brenton Burchell 64 punt return, Grissom kick, 0:29.
Cascade-Ryan Inman 75 run, Drake Hodge kick, 11:03.
Forrest-Grissom 25-yard field goal, 4:36.
Forrest-Bennett 2 run, Grissom kick, 2:24.
Total Yards-Forrest 267, Cascade 228
Rushing-Forrest 220, Cascade 166.
Passing-Forrest 47, Cascade 62.
Forrest-Chris Davis 8-86, Hunter Bennett 7-48-2TD, Brenton Burchell 8-29, Tayton Swift 7-23, McCalister Wilson 5-22, Liam Bell 6-12.
Cascade-Ryan Inmon 21-139-TD, Xamarion Dixon 4-13, Connor Huie 2-8, Blake Olive 2-4, Chris Sullivan 2-2.
Forrest-Hunter Bennett 2-5-47-0-0.
Cascade-Ryan Inmon 3-13-62-0-2INT.
Forrest-Christian Hammond 2-47.
Cascade-Taylor Dowell 3-62.
Penalties-Forrest 3-30, Cascade 2-15.
Turnovers-Forrest 1, Cascade 2.
Region 5-AA Standings
Forrest (5-2, 3-0)
Cascade (6-1, 2-1)
Summertown (4-2, 2-1)
Richland (3-3, 1-2)
Mt. Pleasant (3-4, 1-2)
Loretto (2-5, 0-3)