Friday, August 12, 2011

Rockets rewarded in pre-season scrimmage

TE Bobby Knox reaches for a Muhlenberg ball carrier.

In its only scheduled scrimmage of the preseason, Crittenden County got a rewarding warmup at Muhlenberg County Friday night, winning in action against two teams.

The Rocket defense was remarkable at times and the offense outscored Muhlenberg and Logan counties a combined five touchdowns to none.

The defense recorded a sack, scored once and recovered a fumble to set up another TD.

"The defense is no doubt ahead of the offense," said Rocket coach Al Starnes, staring his 21st season. "For our first scrimmage we played okay, but we're never satisfied. I saw plenty of things we need to work on. We had some mistakes and some penalties."

The three teams participating in the pre-season workout took turns playing offense in a controlled-type scrimmage with each squad getting 10 offensive plays and 10 defensive plays against one another. During that portion, Crittenden outscored Muhlenberg 6-0 and battled to a scoreless draw against Logan County, which had the more competitive team of the two opponents. Crittenden scored on its 10th offensive play against Muhlenberg as tailback Dustin Hernandez ran for a TD on a double handoff.

Against Logan in the scripted portion of the scrimmage, Crittenden got a couple of positive-yard running plays from Hernandez and quarterback Bryce Willis completed a 15-yard pass to Clint Asbridge. Otherwise, the offense sputtered a bit. The defense remained tough, however, holding Logan to 23 yards.

Crittenden mixed up its offensive sets in the 10-play series portions of the scrimmage, running out of the Wing-T, I-Formation and Spread. Several players worked into the rotation. Starnes said getting depth on the line is key to a successful season.

"We have some playmakers if we can the ball in their hands," he said. "But the key will be getting help up front. We have to get some of these non-starters ready to play because with our schedule, we're going to have four hard quarters of football every Friday night. There aren't going to be any blowouts where we can rest people."

Because of that, Starnes said conditioning is a concern at this point. However, it's still early. The team will not scrimmage again in the preseason. The Rockets open at home Aug. 26 in the National Guard Warrior Bowl against Central Hopkins.

In the final segment of Friday's scrimmage at Greenville, Crittenden lined up first against host Muhlenberg with 15 minutes on a running clock. The Rockets scored on its third play from scrimmage, a 66-yard pass from Willis to receiver Grant Gardner. Micah Hollamon kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead.

QB Bryce Willis covers a bad snap near the end zone.
From his safety position, Asbridge picked off his second pass of the night. This one he returned 35 yards for a TD. The extra point attempt was partially blocked, giving Crittenden a 13-0 advantage.

Muhlenberg fumbled on its ensuing possession and it was recovered by defensive end Devin Clark. The Rockets scored two plays later on a 21-yard Hernandez run. With Hollamon's kick, Crittenden won the period 20-0.

The Rockets finished with 114 yards of offense against Muhlenberg, including 90 in the air. Willis was 2-for-3 and backup QB Travis Gilbert was 1-1. Newcomer Austin Piper caught a pass and so did fullback Brenden Phillips.

In the nightcap, Crittenden beat Logan County 7-0 after 15 minutes of play. The Rockets rushed for 41 yards and passed for 46 during that period. Logan was held to just five yards total offense.

Crittenden scored its only TD against Logan on a four-yard run by Hernandez, capping a seven-play, 75-yard drive. The big play on that series was 40-yard pass from Willis to tight end Bobby Knox.

"I liked our intensity," Starnes said. "I think we're starting to mesh as a team."

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