MARION, Ky. - On the first play of the game, Caldwell County tried to deploy an age-old curse it has used so many times before in this 42-year series.
However, Crittenden County responded with some basic Rocket science to dispel the jinx and win the border rivalry 26-14 in front of a packed stadium Friday night.
Kicking away from dangerous Rocket return man J.D. Gray was the plan and it worked to some extent on the opening play. Crittenden fumbled the kickoff to set up Jaquan Glover's 27-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. The quick strike stunned some in the crowd, but Crittenden's methodical offense never blinked.
The Rockets responded with an eight-play 79-yard drive capped by Brian Berry's 17-yard touchdown to knot the score at 7-7 early in the first period. Berry – who finished with a career-high 216 yards – rushed for 15, 6, 22, 24 and 17 yards on the first series. He ended up scoring two more times to lead the third-ranked Rockets to a 5-0 start, its best beginning since going 8-0 in 1999.
After the Caldwell hex failed to work its magic in the opening minutes, Crittenden went to its tried and true ball-control offense and scored on three straight possessions for a 19-7 halftime lead.
Caldwell was unable to find any running room at all against the Rocket defense, which held the Tigers to just 21 yards on the ground. So, Caldwell – which threw just six passes the first half – went mostly to the air late and managed to make it a contest.
A long TD pass at the end of the third period gave Caldwell some renewed life and its quarterback Blake Hodges threw successfully into the red zone again with just over seven minutes to play. However, Crittenden's Andrew Freeman recovered a Tiger fumble at his own 12 to stop a drive that could have made it a one-touchdown game.
Crittenden punted just once in the first two periods, but was forced to kick the ball away after four straight three-and-outs in the final half. Just as the Rocket defense was showing some signs of fatigue late in the game, it got big plays to seal the deal. Gray had two punts of more than 50 yards to help pin Caldwell back in its own territory, and Rocket defenders Freeman, Terry Werne, Dylan Clark and Zack Collins threw the Tigers for tackles behind the line of scrimmage at critical points in the fourth period.
Crittenden held Caldwell on downs four times in the game and the Tigers converted just three of 11 third-down plays. Caldwell was thrown for negative yardage or no gain on 11 snaps.
The Rockets rushed for 301 yards, but never threw a pass. Ironically, Gray was hardly a factor on offense as he rushed for 34 yards on a dozen carries. Freeman rushed for 48 as he and Berry carried the load against a team that was obviously gunning for Gray (who grew up playing youth football in Caldwell County).
It was Crittenden's first win in five years against arch-rival Caldwell County. The Rockets have now won nine straight at home, the longest winning streak at Rocket Stadium since 1999-2000.
Berry's big night rushing was good for 12th most yards in single game in school history.
Crittenden opens its Class A First District schedule next week at Ballard Memorial.
Pictured at top is running back Brian Berry picking up some of career-high 216 yards.
Directly above is running back Andrew Freeman, who also had a big fumble recovery late in the game.
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Caldwell County 7 0 7 0
Crittenden County 13 6 7 0
Cald-Jaquan Glover 27 run (Glen Gray kick) 11:45, 1st
Critt-Brian Berry 17 run (J.R. Adams kick) 7:20, 1st
Critt-Andrew Freeman 9 run (kick failed) :17, 1st
Critt-Berry 35 run (pass failed) 7:43, 2nd
Critt-Berry 4 run (Adams kick) 3:38, 3rd
Cald-Aggie Capps 28 pass from Blake Hodges (Gray kick) :00, 3rd
First Downs: Crittenden 11, Caldwell 7
Penalties: Crittenden 7-50, Caldwell 8-70
Rushing: Crittenden 52-301, Caldwell 26-21
Passing: Crittenden 0-0-0, Caldwell 12-21-0, 142 yds.
Total Yards: Crittenden 301, Caldwell 163
Fumbles/Lost: Crittenden 1-1, Caldwell 2-1
Rushing: Crittenden-Berry 25-216, Freeman 14-48, J.D. Gray 12-34, Tanner Nix 1-3. Caldwell-Glover 8-35, Brandon Sigler 8-33, Austin Phelps 1-(-3), Hodges 9-(-44).
Passing: Caldwell-Hodges 12-21-0, 142 yds.
Receiving: Caldwell-Capps 6-99, Phelps 3-22, Glover 3-21.
Defense: A.Berry 2 solos, 3 assists; B.Berry 3 solos, 3 assists, TFL; Clark 6 solos, 4 assists, 3 TFL, sack; Collins solo, assists, sack; Cudnik 2 solos, assist; Fletcher 2 solos, 2 assists, sack; Freeman 3 solos, 2 assists, 2 TFL, fumble recovery; Gray solo, 2 assists, Hernandez assist; Kirk assist; Lee assist; Long 3 assists; Nix 3 solos, assist; Thornton 3 solos, 4 assists; D.Wallace 2 solos, 2 assists; Werne solo, 3 assists, TFL.
Pizza Hut Players of the Game: Defense Dylan Clark. Offense J.D. Gray. Lineman Aaron Berry.
Records: Crittenden 5-0, Caldwell 2-3