Friday, September 10, 2010

Blast from the Past: A look at 1999 Rockets

By Andy Hunt

In search of this week’s Blast from the Past article it seemed that a look back to the 1999 season was appropriate.

If you compare this season so far to the first couple of games of the 1999 team, you will notice several similarities. Both teams started out 2-0 with tough, grind-it-out wins and would be looking to easily make it three wins against a weak third game opponent (1999, Fulton County 42-0; 2010, McLean County in 2010).

Both team’s strength’s would seem to be their defenses rather than their offenses. However, both offenses, at times, have the ability to show flashes of explosiveness with long runs (1999, Brad Madden, 56 yard TD in week 2; 2010 Andrew Freeman, 68 yard TD in week 2).

And finally, both team’s starting senior quarterback’s have been injured in the first two games. Below is the write up from the 1999 week 2 game which was a close 20-14 win for the Rockets. Hopefully this season will start as good as ’99…

From the Crittenden Press archives

Too close

Late drive stopped by Cozart pick

Despite building a 14-0 lead less than eight minutes into the game, Crittenden County found itself in a tight contest at crunch time before narrowly edging Heath 20-14 last Friday in the home opener at Rocket Field.

After the Rocket defense held the Pirates on their first possession, new Crittenden County starting quarterback Matt Mattingly marched his team on a five-play scoring drive, capped with his first varsity touchdown pass. Mattingly connected with tight end Josh Cozart for the TD and the extra-point kick by Brad Madden was good for a 7-0 lead.

Madden tacked on a rushing touchdown in the first quarter for a quick 14-0 edge.

The Rocket secondary, playing shorthanded due to the loss of injured Ryan Beavers and the absence of Tanner Tabor (who was serving a one-game suspension), began to struggle as Heath went to the air with backup QB Micheal Ledgerwood. Ledgerwood came in for starter Brian Matheney after the first two series and sparked the Pirate offense.

After having played so well last week against Murray allowing only 58 passing yards, the depleted secondary began to struggle. Heath racked up 105 yards on seven completions in the game. And it was a 25-yard pass from Ledgerwood to Urias Mends-Cole that brought Heath back to within 14-7 in the second period.

Rocket fullback Steve Thompson scored on a long run to put Crittenden ahead by two TDs in the second quarter, but the Rockets missed a great chance to deliver the knockout blow just before halftime.

Rocket coach Al Starnes was very displeased with the play of his secondary and said several of the Pirate passes may not have been completed if his troops would have simply defended better in their pass coverages.

However, backup safety Jordan Yates did manage to intercept a pass from Ledgerwood with 3:32 left before halftime, putting his team in business at the Rocket 37-yard line.

Leading 20-7, Yates’ pick gave his team a golden opportunity to tally another score before intermission and give the hosts a three touchdown cushion.

However, a Mattingly pass was picked off by Pirate Curtis Vance at the Heath 22-yard line, spoiling that chance.

“We could have very easily put them out of the ballgame,” Starnes said of the missed opportunity to expand the lead going into halftime.

Those offensive woes would carry over into the second half. The Rockets opened the third quarter at their own 40-yard line and marched all the way down to the Heath 28 thanks to a grinding ground attack. But a holding penalty, combined with a stronger defensive showing than Heath had exhibited in the first half, stalled the drive and the hosts once again came away empty.

The Rocket offense, which had racked up a lofty 187 yards in the first half, managed only 66 in the second half. Crittenden had just three first downs in the last half.

The Pirate offense fed on the momentum provided by their defense and Ledgerwood scored on a one-yard keeper with 4:03 left in the game, cutting the margin to 20-14.

On the ensuing possession, the Rockets went three and out and were forced to punt. With his back hear the end zone, freshman punter Bryan Bradham bobbled the snap and the Pirates recovered the ball at the Crittenden 19-yard line.

On fourth-and-eight from the 17-yard line, and the visitors trying to score the tying touchdown, linebacker Cozart came up with a game-saving interception of a Ledgerwood pass.

“I just knew I had to step it up,” Cozart said about the play.

He was also happy about scoring his first touchdown of the young season in the first quarter. He had been moved to offensive tackle in the season opener at Murray, but was returned to tight end for last Friday’s game.

Brad Madden who had 14 carries for 116 yards, including a 56-yard TD, received Offensive Player of the Week honors.

Joey Rich who had 11 tackles with one coming behind the line of scrimmage garnered both Defensive Player of the Week and Line of the Week awards.

Other defenders who played well included Cozart, who had five solos and three assists to go along with his interception, and Cameron Mays, who was making his first ever varsity start. The sophomore racked up six solos and one assist with one of them coming behind the LOS. Lucas Mick also pitched in from his tackle slot with five tackles.

Pirate coach Robert Dew said he thought it was the lackluster first half which prevented his squad from pulling the road upset, but is glad they did not quit and made a game of it in the late stages of the contest.

Despite the win, one area that concerns the Rocket coach is how his squad fatigued and suffered cramps during the game.

He said that he has not done anything different in his previous eight years as far as preseason conditioning and wants to find out where the problem lies before this week’s game at Fulton County.

Offensive guard Matt Jent who missed the second half with an injured arm, is recovered and ready to play this week. Quarterback Ryan Beavers says he is scheduled for surgery today (Thursday) on his injured knee.