Friday, November 28, 2008

Rockets beat Mayfield for regional title

MARION, Ky. – With the game on the line late in the fourth period, Crittenden's defense stopped Mayfield near midfield then turned to its trusted power offense to put an exclamation point on a 26-13 state quarterfinal victory over the Cardinals Friday at Rocket Stadium.

Clinging to a 20-13 lead with just over 10 minutes to play, Crittenden fumbled, giving Mayfield the ball at its own 47. However, four straight passes from Cardinal quarterback Luke Guhy fell incomplete and the Rockets got the reprieve they were looking for.

There would be no more mistakes – no more chances for Mayfield to steal the thunder like it had so many times before against so many other teams.

The Cardinals, winners of 24 of the last 30 regional titles, were defenseless down the stretch against Crittenden's senior power attack led by Rodney Robertson and Gaige Courtney. While it was quarterback J.D. Gray who scrambled for two first-half touchdowns, returned a punt 85 yards for a third-period score and rushed for 146 yards, the smash-mouth bone-crushers came alive to seal the deal in the fourth.

Courtney, who hadn't touched the ball all night, and Robertson, who finished with 100 yards, were the Rockets' beasts of burden when a state semifinal berth was held in the balance. Gray handed off to the pair time and again as Crittenden pounded its way 69 yards down field and into the end zone, picking up three critical first downs on the way and draining Mayfield's hopes as the clock ticked off precious minutes.

The Rockets extended their final margin to 13 points with Courtney's three-yard carry with 2:11 to play. Robertson made sure Mayfield didn't even get a chance to forge a late rally when he pulled the ball loose from Cardinal running back Jarrod Noonan on the very next series. Noonan had caught a dump pass on the right flank and Robertson stripped the ball then recovered the fumble with 1:19 left.

"Our philosophy is to control the ball, control the clock and keep the ball away from their offense's hands," Rocket coach Al Starnes said after collecting his first regional championship in 18 seasons at Crittenden County. Starnes had guided the Rockets to two other regional championship games in 1998 and 2002, but Mayfield stopped both playoff runs. 

"We wanted to get first downs and take time off the clock," he said about the final drive which featured his two senior running backs.

Courtney didn't have a carry for three periods, then his number was called eight times in the closing minutes.

"Gaige is a pounder. We felt like he needed to run the ball because we needed some fresh legs in there to get some first downs," the coach explained. "Those two guys – Rodney and Gaige – are seniors, and we said big-time players make big time-plays in big-time games. It was a big stage for us and the kids did a good job of holding onto the ball, executing and blocking up front – and we got it done."

The Rockets had to pull off some late heroics to hold off a furious Mayfield passing attack. However, Crittenden (10-3) never trailed in the game after Gray broke loose on the first series of the second quarter and scored on a 60-yard run down the home sideline.

Mayfield (7-6) tried run the ball early, but had virtually no success on offense until the Cardinals started throwing on almost every down. Guhy threw it 30 times and his receivers caught a dozen passes, but they dropped about a half dozen others.

"Mayfield dropped a lot of passes and that helped us out, but our kids were flying around and had to make some plays at the end to stop them," Starnes added.

It was Crittenden's second victory ever over the Cardinals. The Rockets beat Mayfield by almost an identical score (27-14) during the regular season. Prior to this year, Crittenden was 0-10 against Mayfield, including eight playoff losses.

The victory gives Crittenden its third regional title in school history. The Rockets won the region in 1963 and in 1985 during the Class A state championship season.

Crittenden will play in the final four next week at Beechwood High School in Ft. Mitchell. Beechdown, the 2007 Class A champion, defeated Frankfort 42-14 in its state quarterfinal matchup Friday. Click here for a homepage link to Beechwood High School.

Click here for Class A Playoff Bracket.

Mayfield 0 6 0 7
Crittenden 0 14 6 6

CC-J.D. Gray 60 run (Robertson run) 10:48, 2nd
M-Jarrod Noonan 10 run (pass failed) 9:05, 2nd
CC-Gray 21 run (kick failed) 4:51, 2nd
CC-Gray 85 punt return (kick failed) 10:31, 3rd
M-Tyreese Murrell 2 run (Marc Wynstra kick) 10:58, 4th
CC-Gaige Courtney 3 run (kick failed) 2:11, 4th

First Downs: Crittenden 11, Mayfield 13
Penalties: Crittenden 2-15, Mayfield 4-45
Rushing: Crittenden 44-297, Mayfield 26-102
Passing: Crittenden 0-3-0, Mayfield 12-30-0, 206 yds.
Total Yards: Crittenden 297, Mayfield 308
Fumbles: Crittenden 1-1, Mayfield 2-1

Crittenden: Gray 16-146, Rodney Robertson 20-100, Courtney 8-51. Mayfield: J.Noonan 10-93, Murrell 9-18, Xavier Shelton 4-6, Eric Noonan 1-1, Luke Guhy 2-(-16).
Crittenden: Gray 0-3-0. Mayfield: Guhy 12-30-0, 206 yds.
Mayfield: Murrell 5-97, Javarius Richardson 2-48, Gary Walton 2-27, Shelton 2-29, J.Noonan 1-5.
A.Berry 2 solos, 3 assists, 2 TFL; B.Berry 2 solos, assist; Clark solo, 4 assists, TFL; Courtney 6 solos, 2 assists, 2 TFL; Cudnik assist; Freeman 3 solos,k assist, TFL, sack; Kirk assist; Mitchell assist; Nix 3 solos, 3 assists, fumble recovery; Robertson 6 solos, assist, caused fumble; Thornton 4 solos, 2 assists, TFL; Urbanowski assist; Werne solo, 2 assists.
Players of the Game Offense J.D. Gray; Defense Gaige Courtney, Rodney Robertson, J.D. Gray; Linemen A.Berry and Dylan Clark.
Records: Crittenden 10-3, Mayfield 7-6.