LaCenter, Ky. - Without much emotion the third-ranked Rockets won their district opener 27-6 at Ballard Memorial Friday, capitalizing on some big plays and defensive fortitude to earn a sixth straight victory.
J.D. Gray returned the opening kickoff 73 yards for a touchdown then sprinted 53 yards on a fake punt in the fourth quarter to lead a somewhat lethargic Crittenden offense to the Class A First District triumph.
"We weren't sharp at all. It was the second week in a row that we just were not very sharp," said Rocket coach Al Starnes following the win. "Give Ballard credit, they handled us up front, but we played pretty good defense to hold them to just six points."
The Bombers had posted more than 100 points in their last two games.
Ballard was as much to blame for its inability to score as Crittenden's defense was responsible. The Bombers' free-wheeling pass attack led by junior quarterback Alex Mallory ripped the Rockets for 196 yards through the air. Ballard mounted a late running offensive for 113 on the ground and finished with more than twice as many first downs as the Rockets. However, the hosts couldn't find the end zone, fumbling once, failing twice on fourth down, committing some costly penalties and Mallory threw an interception.
Crittenden's pass rush disrupted Mallory just enough to keep him from being more effective despite completing 16 of 27 passes.
The Rockets profited from a 44-yard touchdown pass of its own from Gray to Dylan Clark in the second period to take a 14-0 edge. It was Clark who sacked Mallory on fourth down, setting up the drive that he punctuated with the touchdown reception early in the second period.
Crittenden made it 21-0 later in the second, scoring shortly after stopping Ballard on a fake punt try. The Rockets almost went ahead by four touchdowns, but Gray was intercepted in the end zone just before the half. It was the first time he had been picked off in 15 games.
Ballard moved the chains in the third period behind its big running back Will Mallory and some timely pass receptions, but netted just six points.
Gray widened the gap with to 27-6 when he elected to run on fourth down instead of punting. The senior broke two tackles then outran everyone else to the end zone.
The Bombers were driving late in the fourth, but fumbled on Crittenden's 15 and Rocket defensive back Justin Lee recovered it.
Crittenden's normally powerful running attack was slowed by Ballard's aggressive frontline. Junior Brian Berry led the offense with 64 yards one 14 carries.
Crittenden will host winless district foe Fulton County next week for its annual homecoming game.
Directly above is LB Dyllan Thornton (1) and J.D. Gray covering on a pass to Ballard's Alex Hill.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Crittenden County 7 14 0 6
Ballard Memorial 0 0 6 0
CC-J.D. Gray 73 kickoff return (J.R. Adams kick) 11:47, 1st
CC-Dylan Clark 44 pass from Gray (Adams kick) 11:52, 2nd
CC-Andrew Freeman 2 run (Adams kick) 4:20, 2nd
BM-Will Mallory 7 run (kick failed) 1:12, 3rd
CC-Gray 53 run (kick failed) 3:29, 4th
First Downs: Crittenden 8, Ballard 19
Penalties: Crittenden 4-30, Ballard 3-35
Rushing: Crittenden 40-168, Ballard 22-113
Passing: Crittenden 4-7-1, 90 yds., Ballard 16-27-1, 196 yds.
Total Yards: Crittenden 258, Ballard 309
Fumbles/Lost: Crittenden 0-0, Ballard 1-1
Rushing: Crittenden-Brian Berry 14-64, Gray 12-51, Freeman 7-28, Tanner Nix 6-27, Devin Wallace 1-(-2). Ballard-W.Mallory 10-93, Alex Mallory 10-15, Jake Wildharber 2-5.
Passing: Crittenden-Gray 4-7-1, 90 yds. Ballard-A.Mallory 16-27-1, 196 yds.
Receiving: Crittenden-Clark 3-84, Berry 1-6. Ballard-Alex Hill 6-87, Ty Prince 4-60, W.Mallory 2-17, Wildharber 3-16, Chris Jones 1-16.
Defense: A.Berry 4 solos, 3 assists, 3 TFL; B.Berry solo, 4 assists; Clark 2 solos, 3 assists, sack, interception; Collins 2 assists; Cudnik solo, assist; Cozart solo, assist, TFL; Fletcher 2 solos, 4 assists; Freeman 3 solos, 4 assists; Gray 5 solos, 3 assists; Hernandez assist; Kirk 3 assists; Lee 2 solos, fumble recovery; Nix 2 solos, assist; Thornton 8 solos, 4 assists, 2 TFL; B.Wallace 4 solos, assist, sack; Werne 2 solos, 3 assists, TFL; Willis solo.
Pizza Hut Players of the Game: Defense Dyllan Thornton. Offense J.D. Gray. Lineman Aaron Berry.
Records: Crittenden 6-0, Ballard 1-5.