Friday, October 25, 2019

Rockets claim district crown 21-14 over Panthers

Caden McCalister rushed for 2 TDs and Xander Tabor
had 218 yards on the ground to help beat Russellville.
MARION, Ky. – In a steady drizzle when almost anything could happen, Crittenden County’s defense made sure it didn’t when all of its cash was on the table.

Russellville had already been the beneficiary of a tipped Rocket pass that went for an interception return in the first half, and two of its own passes were deflected into friendly hands, which had helped the Panthers make the regular-season title match a one-touchdown game in the closing minutes. But with its back to the wall, Crittenden defended three late aerial shots at paydirt from Panther QB Lennon Ries from the Rocket 33, and CCHS won the game 21-14.

It didn’t come as easy as some might have expected. A cursory review of both team’s resumes through the fall of 2019 would have indicated something less thrilling. The Panthers came into the contest with just two wins – both in district play against Caverna and Fulton County – and the Rockets had three times as many wins at the opening kickoff. But with the stakes high, Russellville took Crittenden to the final 42 seconds before giving in to the now three-time, regular-season First District Class A champion Rockets.

“We knew they were a good team, traditionally a powerhouse,” Rocket skipper Sean Thompson said of the Panthers. “We knew they would come in and give us a tough battle.”

Rocket nose guard Lathan Easley stops Russellville
running back Jovari Gamble
Thompson pointed to a one-two punch presented by juniors Xander Tabor and Caden McCalister for spearheading a Crittenden running game that piled up 341 yards rushing. Tabor went for 218 yards – it was the third time in four games he eclipsed the 200-yard mark. That had never been done before in the Rockets’ 62-year football history. McCalister ran for 82 and two touchdowns as Crittenden deployed another steady dose of smash-mouth football for the victory.

Sophomore Luke Crider, getting his first start at quarterback after coming in midway through last week’s game and sparking a win at Fulton County, threw a touchdown pass to freshman Preston Morgeson in the third period against Russellville. That TD eventually proved to be the winning stroke. Crider completed 3-of-6 passes for 29 yards. He did toss one interception, which was picked off Russellville’s Jackson Hampton and returned 67 yards for a first-half touchdown. 

The takeaway from this game was not how Crittenden threw the football, however, it was how the Rockets ran it. They did it in varying ways, from varying formations and in various hands. From direct snaps to well-executed counter plays, Crittenden was able to carve up the Panther defense with a punishing ground attack that has become a staple of the Rocket persona since its last loss on Sept. 27 at Union County.

Crittenden was in a fairly good place with about seven minutes left in the game, leading 21-12, but Russellville blocked a Rocket punt through the end zone for a safety to make it a one-possession game. These two teams will likely meet again in the second round of the playoffs because the KHSAA has changed the post-season format. Now, the first two playoff games are played within the district. Crittenden will open post-season play at home against Caverna Nov. 8, then – if successful in that one – host the winner of the other side of the bracket (Russellville or Fulton County) the following week. From there a ranking system will dictate the third-round opponent. Fulton County beat Caverna 47-0 Friday to claim the district’s third seed.

The Rockets will close out the regular season next Friday at home in a non-district matchup with Todd Central.

Russellville 6 6 0 2
Crittenden 6 8 7 0

C-Caden McCalister 8 run (kick failed) 11:07, 1st
R-Xavier Coleman 3 run (kick blocked) 1:54, 1sst
C-McCalister 4 run (Braxton Winders run) 9:07, 2nd
R-Jackson Hampton 67 interception return, 1:36, 2nd
C-Preston Morgeson 12 pass from Luke Crider (Noah Perkins kick) 4:03, 3rd
R-Safety 6:54, 4th

First Downs: Crittenden 19, Russellville 14
Penalties: Crittenden 9-105, Russellville 10-65
Rushing: Crittenden 51-341, Russellville 36-115
Passing: Crittenden 3-7-2, 29 yds., Russellville 7-19-1, 107 yds.
Total Yards: Crittenden 370, Russellville 222
Fumbles/Lost: Crittenden 1-0, Russellville3-2

Crittenden: Xander Tabor 28-218, McCalister 14-82, Morgeson 1-0, Winders 7-41, Crider 1-0. Russellville: Jovari Gamble 14-90, Coleman 2-8, Chevis Elliott 5-18, Lennon Ries 15-(-1).
Crittenden: Crider 3-6-1, 29 yds., Winders 0-1-1. Russellville: Ries 7-19-1, 107 yds.
Crittenden: Tyler Boone 2-17, Morgeson 1-12. Russellville: Gamble 1-7, Hampton 3-52, Coleman 1-3, Josh Allen 2-27.
Boone solo, 2 assists; Easley 7 solos, 6 assists, TFL, 3 sacks, caused fumble; Ellington assist; McCalister 10 solos, 3 assists, TFL, interception; McGowan 5 solos, 2 assists, 2 TFL, 2 fumble recoveries; N.Perkins 3 solos, assist; Tabor solo; Turley solo, assist, sack; Winders 4 solos, 5 assists, sack; Bailey 2 solos; Carlson assist; Derrington assist; Mundy 2 solos; Yates 4 solos, assist, 2 TFL; Gobin assist; Morgeson 3 solos, interception.
Players of the Game: Lineman Riley Gobin, Defense Caden McCalister and Lathan Easley, Offense Xander Tabor.
Records: Crittenden 7-2 (3-0), Russellville 2-7 (2-1)