The Rockets turned to bully ball Friday night at Massac County, Ill., to win 25-23 after doing it via the air a week earlier in the season-opener at Hopkins Central.
The Rocket Road Show has featured very different dynamics from an offense that sports a playbook bigger than Webster's Dictionary and includes contrasting schemes and philosophies from smash-mouth to spread-and-throw.
"We felt like we could line up and run at them," coach Al Starnes said after the game. "Their speed limited our spread."
In the Linwood Motors Bowl at Metropolis, Ill., Crittenden's bread-and-butter offense was the I-formation with tailback Andrew Freeman carrying the load. The senior – who coach Starnes says is more of a natural fullback -– barreled his way to 143 yards and won the game's MVP. He also scored twice, including what turned out to be the game-clincher in the third period.
Freebird, as his teammates call him, carried the ball 31 times, pounding the smaller, inexperienced Patriot front line like an steel hammer at times, but also displaying a tailback's burst on a 68-yard runaway touchdown early in the game. The Rockets' frontline play improved in Week 2. Freeman was largely the benefactor, but his bracemate, Dustin Hernandez, gave Crittenden a change of pace at times, and he rushed for 53 yards.
Quarterback Brian Berry, who passed for 170 in the season opener, tallied 92 yards against Massac. He also rushed for a couple of TDs, including a hard-won eight-yards on fourth-and-goal to end the first half when he had to run over a defender at the goal line.
Rocket Playmaker Tanner Nix was Berry's most effective receiver, catching four passes for 61 yards.
While its offense narrowly outscored the Patriots, Crittenden's defense towed the line, especially late, stopping Massac on fourth down three straight times to end the game, once at the Rocket 12. Pressure on the quarterback was key and the defense held Massac to only 54 yards rushing.
Massac's offense swapped touchdowns with Crittenden in the second half, but its punt return team made the game close. The Rockets' special teams play has been perhaps its weakest link through two games. Berry punted out of his own end zone successfully once and a twice had to get punts away from deep in Rocket territory. Early in the fourth period with Berry nursing a hand injury, backup punter Tanner Nix's punt was blocked and the Patriots recovered it in the end zone to cut Crittenden's lead to two. A potential game-tying conversion run was snuffed in the backfield by the Rocket defense to – in effect – preserve the victory with 11 minutes to go.
"This was a goooood win," Starnes said. "They're a good football team."
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Crittenden Co. 7 12 6 0
Massac County 7 3 7 6
MC - Kelvin Skinner 10 pass from Dalton Stoner (Jon Havercamp kick) 8:10, 1st
CC-Andrew Freeman 68 run (Brian Berry kick) :13, 1st
CC-Berry 1 run (kick failed) 9:02, 2nd
MC-Havercamp 24 field goal, 3:31, 2nd
CC-Berry 8 run (pass failed) :19, 2nd
MC-Jerel Johnson 4 run (Havercamp kick) 10:03, 3rd
CC-Freeman 5 run (kick failed) 5:24, 3rd
MC-Block punt Nate Hillebrand recover in end zone (run failed) 11:07, 4th
First Downs: Crittenden 14, Massac 12
Penalties: Crittenden 9-105, Massac 7-60
Rushing: Crittenden 50-202, Massac 28-56
Passing: Crittenden 7-15-1, 92 yds., Massac 11-26-1, 134 yds.
Total Yards: Crittenden 295, Massac 190
Fumbles/Lost: Crittenden 1-0, Massac 3-1
Crittenden-Freeman 31-143, Tanner Nix 4-6, Grant Gardner 1-(-4), Dustin Hernandez 8-53, Bowe Wallace 1-(-5), Berry 5-10. Massac-Jordan Jackson 15-23, Stoner 8-21, Malcom Amos 2-4, Johnson 4-8.
Crittenden-Berry 7-15-1, 92 yds. Massac-Stoner 11-26-1, 134 yds.
Crittenden-Nix 4-61, Freeman 1-2, Ethan Hill 1-11, Hernandez 1-18. Massac-Kelvin Skinner 4-64, Isaiah Cruz 2-35, Johnson 2-35, Amos 4-0.
Bebout 2 assists; Berry 7 solos, 3 assists, TFL; Cozart 3 solos, assist; Freeman 3 solos, 5 assists; Gardner 5 solos, 4 assists, TFL, fumble recovery; Hamby assist; Hernandez 2 solos, 3 assists; Hill 3 solos, 2 assists; Long 9 solos, 3 assists, 3 TFL, sack, interception; Nix 2 solos, 2 assists; Phillips solo; B.Wallace solo; D.Wallace 3 solos, 4 assists; Werne 4 solos, 4 assists, 3 TFL, sack; Willis 3 solos, assist.
Players of the Game: Defense Jacob Long. Offense Andrew Freeman. Lineman Terry Werne.Records: Crittenden 2-0, Massac 0-1