Friday, November 11, 2022

Rockets advance to Class A Quarterfinal

MARION, Ky. – To gain a measure of revenge and to earn a full portion of respect, Crittenden County’s football team knew it had win the old-fashioned way – on the dirt.

The Rockets, unranked and largely overlooked among Class A contenders all year long, upset No. 5 Bethlehem Friday 33-20. It took their finest rushing performance of the season to do it.

Gattin Travis became the first CCHS
running back to go over 100 yards.
CCHS played a very competitive early-season schedule, testified by the fact that every loss in 2022 had been at the hands of teams that were still alive for Friday’s second round of the KHSAA playoffs (Murray, Union County, Madisonville and Bethlehem). Crittenden was beaten at Bethlehem, a Bardstown private school, 63-35 in late September. The Rockets haven’t lost since, winning six straight games.

Behind the shoulder pads of Gattin Travis, who is emerging as the Rockets’ Mr. November, Crittenden County rushed for a season-best 261 yards. Travis gained 131 on 19 carries, most of it in the second half as he became the team’s first player to rush for more than 100 yards in a game this season.

“I’ve gotta give it all to my line, my teammates. I couldn’t do it without them,” Travis said. “We came out, we executed, we battled through adversity and we did everything we needed to do to win.”

The victory gives second-year coach Gaige Courtney his first trip to a Class A regional championship next week at Louisville Holy Cross. Crittenden has been a regional finalist nine times before this season, winning twice, in 1985 and 2008. The Rockets lost in the regional finals in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Kaleb Nesbitt looks for yards after a catch.

“I am just really excited for the guys. I’m really overwhelmed,” said Courtney, who was on the 2008 regional championship team that lost in the state semifinals to Beechwood. “I am just happy for them, so happy for them.”

The coach said his team had its back to the wall, trying to defend its goal line, down by one point with about four minutes to play after Bethlehem marched into the red zone. 

“I was afraid we about to run out of time, he said.

But a couple of penalties and a bad snap cost the Eagles a chance to take a more commanding lead, and perhaps put the game away. Instead, they were forced to punt, pinning Crittenden at its own two-yard line. The Rockets were trailing 20-19 in a game that was tied at 13 at the half.

“The defense really struggled getting stops, but we got one when we needed it,” Courtney added.

From the two, Rocket quarterback Micah Newcom found senior receiver Preston Morgeson on a 70-yard sideline strike that set up a determined touchdown run and followup two-point conversion carry, both by junior running back Tyler Belt. That gave the Rockets a 27-20 lead with 2:33 to go. Crittenden got the ball back four plays later, and scored again to seal the victory.

CCHS has not lost this season when it has held its opponent to less than five yards per carry on the ground. Bethlehem rushed for zero net yards in the first half, and finished with 120 for a 4.4 per carry average.

Fettering the Eagles was made perhaps a bit less difficult because of key Bethlehem injuries. Yet that cannot discount the Rockets’ fortitude to beat a team ranked No. 5 in the Associated Press poll and fifth in KHSAA’s power rankings. CCHS is No. 17 in the power rankings and hasn’t been mentioned in the AP’s Top 10 this fall. Bethlehem’s star quarterback, Cooper Stone, broke his collarbone in the final regular-season game, ending the senior’s high school career. The Eagles had a first-round bye in the playoffs, allowing some time to revamp their offense. But then its top tackler, Garrett Lanham, was injured early against Crittenden and never returned. Backup quarterback Haydon Osborne left the game late in the first half, putting the ball in the hands of Bethlehem’s No. 3 QB for the rest of the way. 

Behind Stone’s arm, Bethlehem had averaged more than 250 yards passing during the regular season, and 135 yards rushing. The Eagles used four different players at quarterback against the Rockets, but mustered a mere 79 yards passing.

Meanwhile, Crittenden shifted its typically pass-oriented offense to a smash-mouth running attack. This season, the Rockets have passed for nearly twice as many yards as they have gained on the ground. Against the Eagles, CCHS rushed for 261 and passed for 107. Newcom completed just one pass the entire second half, but it was that fourth-quarter doozy to Morgeson that set up the game-winning touchdown. The score also gave Newcom the school’s single-season all-purpose touchdown record, breaking the previous best 36 TDs set by Hunter Boone a few years ago.

“(Bethlehem) plays the pass well, so we knew we had to run the ball and that’s what we did,” said Belt.

Bethlehem 6 7 7 0
Crittenden 0 13 6 14

B-Haydon Osborne 58 punt return (kick failed) 4:21, 1st
C-Preston Morgeson 14 pass from Micah Newcom (Morgeson kick) 9:33, 2nd
C-Briley Berry 3 pass from Newcom (kick failed) 1:27, 2nd
B-Emmanuel Cheek 26 pass from Nicholas Osborne (Adam Winkenhofer kick) :08, 2nd
C-Gattin Travis 16 run (run failed) 8:08, 3rd
B-Zane Wickliffe 1 run (Winkenhofer kick) 4:15, 3rd
C-Tyler Belt 4 run (Belt run) 2:33, 4th
C-Newcom 7 run (kick failed) 1:21, 4th

First Downs: CCHS 17, BHS 12
Penalties: CCHS 4-35, BHS 7-65
Rushing: CCHS 45-261, BHS 29-129
Passing: CCHS 6-10-1, 107; BHS 6-11-0, 79
Total Yards: CCHS 368, BHS 208
Fumbles/Lost: CCHS 0-0, BHS 0-1

CCHS: Travis 19-131, T.Belt 6-22, Kaleb Nesbitt 5-35, Sammy Impastato 3-5, Newcom 12-68. BHS: Will Ray 1-6, Wickliffe 10-69, Jacob Thornsberry 1-12, N.Osborne 13-45, H.Osborne 4-(-3).
CCHS: Newcom  6-10-1, 107. BMS: N.Osborne 3-6-0, 48; H.Osborne 2-3-0, 20; Wickliffe 1-1-0, 11; Isaiah Ballard 0-1-0.
CCHS: Morgeson 2-84, Berry 2-15, Nesbitt 1-13, Caden Howard 1-(-5).
Seth Guess 2 solos, assist; Nesbitt 4 solos, assist; C. Gobin 8 solos, 2 assists, caused fumble, 2 sacks; Howard 2 solos, 2 assists; Impastato 7 solos, assist, 3 TFL, sack; Bennett McDaniel 3 solos, 4 assists, 2 TFL; Morgeson 2 solos, 2 assists; Levi Piper 4 solos, TFL; T. Belt solo; Gabe Keller solo; Berry 4 solos, 2 assists; G. Travis assist; K. Gobin solo.
Players of the Game: Offense Gattin Travis, Defense Case Gobin, Lineman Braydin Brandsasse.
Records: CCHS 8-4,  BHS 8-3