Friday, December 5, 2008

Beechwood pounds Rockets in state semifinal

FORT MITCHELL, Ky. – Carving out a place in history is tough enough, but it's virtually impossible to do without the guy carrying the hammer and chisel.

For Crittenden County's football team, an historic second trip to the Class A state championship game was the improbable dream. Against heavy odds, the Rockets lined up against defending state champion Beechwood with hopes of slaying a giant and etching into local football lore a second championship chapter.

However, the Tigers, winners of 10 state championships since 1974, blocked every avenue and knocked out the hammer man, quarterback J.D. Gray, in the first half.

When Gray left the game in the second period with a damaged knee cap, Crittenden trailed 21-0. Beechwood went on to win 34-0 and will face Hazard in the Class A state championship game. Gray has been the trigger man in Crittenden's offense sharing a starring role with backfield mate Rodney Robertson. Without Gray, the Rockets' one-two punch is lacking its right arm.

Gray's injury was not as bad as first feared. A member of the Cincinnati Bengals orthopedic staff told the Rockets' Dr. Johnny Newcom that it appeared to be a dislocated knee cap, but Gray will get a full evaluation Saturday morning once the team is back home. In the meantime, sophomore Brian Berry went in behind center and tried to keep the Rockets moving.

Even if Gray could have carried his Rockets across the finish line, the outcome would likely not have been any different.

"They just overpowered us," said 18th-year Rocket coach Al Starnes, as his team was stopped just four quarters short of a berth in the state title game. "I will tell you what, our kids fought and as long as we continue to fight like that, we'll get better."

Crittenden took just 28 players to Fort Mitchell to take on the 69-man roster of Beechwood. Only three of those Rockets were seniors. Gray, just a junior, will return next season along with eight other starters. Only seniors Rodney Robertson, Gaige Courtney and Josh Urbanowski will graduate.

"What we saw tonight is what a state championship football team is," Starnes said describing Beechwood, "they just take it to you from every angle from everywhere on every down. There was nothing we could have done. They just beat us."

Starnes said Gray's absence probably cost his team a few first downs and some offensive yardage, but the outcome would not have been any different.

"We were regional champion and state semifinalist and that's something all these kids can be proud of. They fought all season long and accomplished a great deal," Starnes said. "They never quit in this game either."

Beechwood's factory-type offense was methodical and merciless, pounding Crittenden's generally stingy defense into submission with 14 first downs, five rushing touchdowns and 329 yards on the ground. The Rockets, who were yielding just 16 points a game, had not given up that kind of rushing yardage all season.

"They are big and physical and we knew what they were going to do coming into the game," Starnes said.

His Rockets were overmatched. Beechwood had been averaging 42 points a game, but needed just 34 to pin Crittenden on the mat. After scoring on three of its first four possessions the Tigers tacked on a couple more TDs in the third period then coasted through the fourth quarter with reserve players.

The Rocket offense was stymied. It never got across midfield and Robertson, who was averaging 165 yards per game, was held to just 33. Beechwood's star running back Nieco Teipel, who has more than 2,000 yards this season, rushed for four touchdowns and 178 yards.

"What we learned is that if we want to continue playing at this level, we're going to have to get stronger and more physical," Starnes said, his eye trained squarely on the future.

Crittenden Co. 0 0 0 0
Beechwood 14 7 13 0

B-Michael Colosimo 9 run (Cullen Burke kick) 7:24, 1st
B-Neico Teipel 9 run (Burke kick) 1:06, 1st
B-Teipel 25 run (Burke kick) 7:41, 2nd
B-Teipel 41 run (Burke kick) 7:41, 3rd
B-Teipel 3 run (kick failed) 1:40, 3rd

First Downs: Crittenden 7, Beechwood 14
Penalties: Crittenden 3-24, Beechwood 8-61
Rushing: Crittenden 31-44, Beechwood 48-329
Passing: Crittenden 7-11-0, 35 yds., Beechwood 7-11-0, 103 yds.
Total Yards: Crittenden 79, Beechwood 432

Crittenden: Rodney Robertson 15-33, J.D. Gray 8-14, Gaige Courtney 4-15, Brain Berry 4-(-18). Beechwood: Teipel 27-178, Matt Rigdon 6-93, Joe Colosimo 3-26, Michael Colosimo 2-11, Corey Schuler 2-2, Corey Crane 2-1, Ben Studer 3-5, Nick Pandilidis 22-4.
Crittenden: Gray 2-3-0, 12 yds., B.Berry 5-8-0, 23 yds. Beechwood: Rigdon 7-11-0, 103 yds.
Crittenden: Robertson 3-23, B.Berry 2-3, Allen Kirk 2-8, Joey Pluskota 1-1. Beechwood: J.Colosimo 2-38, Alex Downton 3-33, Daniels 2-32.
Atwell assist; A.Berry 5 solos, 3 assists, TFL; B.Berry 2 solos, assist; Clark 2 solos, 2 assists, TFL; Courtney 6 solos, 3 assists, 2 TFL; Freeman 3 solos, assist, TFL; Fletcher assist; Gray 3 solos; Mitchell solo, assist, TFL; Nix 3 solos, 4 assists; Robertson 5 solos, 2 assists; Thornton 6 solos, 2 assists; Urbanowski 2 solos, Wallace solo, assist; Werne 3 solos, 4 assists; Willis solo.
Players of the Game: Offense Rodney Robertson, Defense Gaige Courtney, Lineman Aaron Berry.
Records: Crittenden 10-4, Beechwood 13-1