CHAPEL HILL — The margin of victory was unexpected, but welcomed as the Forrest Rockets easily handled Summertown 33-7 in a Region 5-AA matchup at the Murrey E. Holton Memorial Field in Chapel Hill in Friday night’s homecoming game.
“Summertown is a good team, but our kids just came out ready to play,” Forrest coach Eli Stephenson said. “They came ready to play in all three phases of the game. We got a score in all three phases of the game and that got us the momentum and we didn’t let up.”
The Rockets ran roughshod over the Eagles in the ground game, rushing the rock 39 times for 268 yards and three touchdowns.
“All of our running backs played great tonight. We were wearing them down in the beginning of the game and in the second half we hit some big plays and scored and that was huge for us,” Stephenson said.
Senior McCalister Wilson opened the scoring with a 53-yard touchdown jaunt three plays into the contest and Tayton Swift scored on a one-yard run in the third quarter before Liam Bell closed the scoring with a 31-yard touchdown with just over five minutes to play in the third period.
The Rockets won the turnover battle 3-1 with Swift coming up with a first quarter interception. The junior recovered a Summertown fumble on the second half kickoff and then ran the ball into the end zone three plays later.
“We definitely didn’t have all the confidence in the world to come out and beat them by 26 points. It’s been a close game the last few years now,” Swift said. “I have to give it up to our defensive coordinator, coach (Ryan) Bridges. He really did an amazing job of game planning this one.”
Wilson also came up with two big defensive plays that turned into nine points, a forced fumble that was scooped up by Davis for a second quarter touchdown and a blocked punt in the third quarter that resulted in a safety, giving the Rockets a 26-7 lead.
“We scored in every aspect of the game. We had a blast and I think that is what made it so good,” Wilson said. “The intensity was amazing. We are always competing with each other to see who can do better, so that makes it fun.”
Forrest won the coin toss and Swift came up with a nice return near the midfield stripe before the Rockets needed just three plays to score with Wilson taking a third down handoff on a scissors play and racing 63 yards for a touchdown.
Gavin Grissom nailed the first of his four successful extra points and the Rockets took a lead they would not surrender.
Swift ruined the Eagles’ opening drive when he came up with an interception on a fourth down pass and the Rockets drove to the Summertown 17-yard line where they had to settle for a Grissom 33-yard field goal to make it 10-0 with 7:32 remaining in the first quarter.
Summertown fought back as they put together a 79-yard drive that culminated in a one-yard quarterback keeper by Colton Schaffer for a touchdown.
After the ensuing kickoff, the Rockets fumbled the ball away at their own 29-yard line where the Eagles shot themselves in the foot with two consecutive false start penalties before Wilson shot into the backfield on a pitch play and drilled the Summertown ball carrier, who fumbled the ball that was scooped by Davis for a backbreaking touchdown.
Summertown went three-and-out on its next offensive possession and the Rockets could not put any points on the board and led 17-7 at the half.
The turnover bug bit the Eagles again as they fumbled the second half kickoff that Swift recovered and three plays later he was in the end zone on a four-yard run.
Summertown began its next drive at their own 14-yard line after a block in the back on the kickoff and the Forrest defense dug in, forcing a three-and-out and an Eagles’ punt.
Wilson busted through the line and blocked the kick that caromed into the end for a safety, giving the Rockets a three-score lead at 26-7 with eight minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Forrest took the punt after a safety at their own 45-yard line and a second down pass from Hunter Bennett to Tyler Ayers moved the ball into Summertown territory where the Rockets went Wildcat with Swift behind center.
Swift took off on a nice run to the 31-yard line and two plays later, Bell took a handoff on a trap play and found an opening to cut outside and race to the pylon for a touchdown.
Grissom’s boot was true and the Rockets led 33-7 with 5:25 remaining in the third quarter.
Summertown went three-and-out quickly and the Rockets began the process of burning time off the clock with the Eagles not getting the ball back until the nine-minute mark of the fourth quarter.
The Eagles failed to get any offense going and the Rockets retained the ball before giving it back on downs with just under two and half minutes to play in the game.
“We came out phenomenal tonight. We knew what we were doing and despite homecoming this week, we came out focused and ready to play,” senior linebacker Layne Strasser said. “We smacked them in the mouth the first play of the game. We had that safety on defense and those things crush them to where they get tired and they get worn down and they don’t want to fight anymore eventually.”
“We didn’t expect to come out here and win by 26 points. I figured it was going to be a close tight came, but we came out here and played tonight.”
The eighth-ranked Rockets (4-1, 2-0) make the long trek to Jasper Friday night for a non-region 2A matchup with longtime nemesis Marion County.
“I think we will prepare well for them. They run a simple offense and a simple defense and I think our defensive coordinator will give us a really good look,” Swift said. “We are really stepping it up each week and I think we can go out and beat them.”
The sixth-ranked Warriors (3-0, 1-0) came off a two-week layoff last Friday night and traveled to Bledsoe County where they came away with an easy 31-10 win.
Friday night’s game will be the fourth matchup between the two schools with the Warriors winning all three previous games in season ending playoff wins at Forrest in 2009 (20-17), 2015 (38-10), and 2016 (55-14).
“They (Marion County) have great tradition. They are some big guys and they want to run the ball and play physical,” Stephenson said. “We want to do the same thing, so it will be a great test for us.”
Summertown 0 7 0 0 — 7
Forrest 10 7 16 0 — 33
F — McCalister Wilson 53 run, (Gavin Grissom kick), 10:27.
F — Grissom 33-yard field goal, 3:49.
S — Colton Schaffer 1 run, (Anthony Williams kick), 9:00.
F — Chris Davis 3-yard fumble return, (Grissom kick), 3:10.
F — Tayton Swift 4 run, (Grissom kick), 10:34.
F — Safety, 8:00.
F — Liam Bell 31 run, (Grissom kick), 5:29.
Total Yards-Summertown 101, Forrest 297.
Rushing-Summertown 60, Forrest 268.
Passing-Summertown 41, Forrest 29.
First Downs-Summertown 6, Forrest 15.
Penalties-Summertown 6-43, Forrest 5-40.
Turnovers-Summertown 3, Forrest 1.
Summertown-Javen Edmiston 6-16, Ty Bryant 2-16, Colton Schaffer 7-9-TD, Anthony Edwards 2-7, Aniken Johnson 2-5, Lane Green 2-5, Cole McCafferty 2-2.
Forrest-McCalister Wilson 4-66-TD, Liam Bell 6-49-TD, Tayton Swift 5-49-TD, Brenton Burchell 7-38, Chris Davis 7-36, Carson Yates 3-17, Bryce Tankersley 3-14, Hunter Bennett 2-8, Noah Helmick 2-(-3).
Summertown-Colton Schaffer 6-14-41-0-INT.
Forrest-Hunter Bennett 4-11-29-0-0.
Summertown-Ty Bryant 2-32, Lane Green 1-9, Javen Edmiston 2-0.
Forrest-Tyler Ayers 2-19, Tayton Swift 1-10, Brenton Burchell 1-0.