Friday, October 1, 2010

Rockets weather passing assault to win 34-18

Sophomore end Bobby Knox sacks Ballard QB Alex Mallory,
causing a first-half fumble that led to a Rocket TD.
MARION, Ky. – Wad up the stat sheet and toss it in the trash.

Ballard Memorial's statistics were amazingly superior to the Rockets in virtually every category except the place where it counted.

The scoreboard read: Rockets 34, Ballard 18.

"We came up with the plays in the red zones," said Rocket coach Al Starnes. "We just played harder the whole game and made plays when we needed them."

Despite yielding 389 yards to the opposing Bomber offense, Crittenden County won a classic bend-but-don't break victory in its first district matchup of the season. The win almost assuredly means homefield advantage in the first round of the playoffs. It was also a homecoming triumph for the Rockets (see homecoming court, click here).

On paper, Ballard's numbers were awesome. Quarterback Alex Mallory, one of the top passers in the state, threw for 297 yards; and his favorite target, Alex Hill, Kentucky's top receiver, caught eight balls for 108 yards. The statistical imbalance didn't stop there. Ballard kept the chains moving all night, racking up 25 first downs to Crittenden's nine, but couldn't close the deal.

The Rocket defense – saddled with trying to stop perhaps the most formidable passing tandem west of Owensboro – fisted up nearly every time its back was the to the wall, stopping the Bombers on downs twice and forcing three turnovers at critical junctures.

Senior Robert Cudnik had a fumble recovery and interception to go along with a touchdown pass he caught in the first period. Classmate Jacob Long gathered up another loose ball.

The sixth-ranked Rockets capitalized on the Bomber mistakes, scoring after one fumble, the interception and once after stopping Ballard on fourth down.

Mallory was practically unstoppable in the first half, driving his team down field with pinpoint passes, but he hit a lull in the second half, missing on five straight throws and giving the Rockets some breathing room. Crittenden responded with two second-half touchdowns from a strong running game as senior Andrew Freemen finished off a three-touchdown performance with rushing scores in each of the last two periods.

Mallory completed 23 of 43 passes. He got back on target near game's end, connecting on eight straight in one stretch, including his second TD pass to Hill. Still, it wasn't enough as the Rockets (5-1) overcame the aerial assault with timely offensive spurts.

"Those two guys (Mallory and Hill) are for real," Starnes said. "But that's what happens with a lot with passing teams. They go from the 20 to the 20. We did what we had to do in the red zone and ran the ball to control the clock."

Tanner Nix opened the game by returning a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown and Cudnik returned another Ballard kickoff 35 yards to the Ballard 26, setting up his own TD reception later in the first period.

Junior Dustin Hernandez broke loose on a 67-yard run in the second half to frame the Rockets' final touchdown early in the fourth period.

Winning the game gives Crittenden an edge over Ballard in the district race. Some had picked the Bombers to finish second in the league. Now, Crittenden has the edge. It needs only to win two of its last three district games to garner a home game in the first round of the Class A playoffs. A pair of those upcoming league matchups will be against winless Fulton and Fulton County. What's shaping up as the district title game will be at Mayfield on Oct. 22. 

The Rockets travel next week to face 0-6 Fulton County.

Defensive coordinator Vince Clark draws up some new strategy
during a timeout in first half.

Click here

Ballard Memorial      12    0   0   6
Crittenden County    12    8   7   7

CC-Tanner Nix 88 kickoff return (kick failed) 11:48, 1st
BM-Tyler Gough 6 run (kick failed) 8:16, 1st
CC-Robert Cudnik 6 pass from Brian Berry (run failed) 5:51, 1st
BM-Alex Hill 17 pass from Alex Mallory (pass failed), 2:21, 1st
CC-Andrew Freeman 10 run (Bobby Knox pass from Berry) 5:59, 2nd
CC-Freeman 4 run (Micah Hollamon kick) 7:24, 3rd
CC-Freeman 1 run (Hollamon kick) 9:18, 4th
BM-Hill 5 pass from Mallory (pass failed) 4:09, 4th

First Downs: Crittenden 9, Ballard 25
Penalties: Crittenden 6-50, Ballard 6-40
Rushing: Crittenden 28-171, Ballard 35-92
Passing: Crittenden 5-10-0, 24 yds., Ballard 23-43-1, 297 yds.
Total Yards: Crittenden 195, Ballard 389
Fumbles/Lost: Crittenden 1-1, Ballard 3-2

Crittenden-Dustin Hernandez 4-72, Nix 8-66, Freeman 13-37, Brenden Phillips 1-1, Berry 2-(-5). Ballard-Tyler Gough 10-72, Mason Weir 12-28, Alex Hill 1-6, Andris Jackson 1-(-3), Mallory 11-(-5).
Crittenden-Berry 5-10-0, 24 yds. Ballard-Mallory 23-43-1, 297 yds.
Crittenden-Hernandez 1-9, Cudnik 1-6, Freeman 1-7, Nix 1-(-7), Phillips 1-9. Ballard-Hill 8-108, Fontez Hill 6-88, Jaylen Morris 1-13, Chris Jones 3-33, Mikey Mix 3-44, Gough 2-11.
Bebout solo, 3 assists; Berry 7 solos, 4 assists; Cozart 4 solos, 6 assists; 2 TFL, caused fumble; Cudnik 2 solos, 4 assists, fumble recovery, interception; Freeman 3 solos, 5 assists; Gardner 7 solos, 8 assists, TFL; Hernandez 5 solos, 4 assists, caused fumble; Knox 6 solos, 2 assists, 2 sacks, TFL, caused fumble; Long 4 solos, 6 assists, fumble recovery; Nix 8 solos, 2 assists; Phillips assist; B.Wallace solo, 2 assists; D.Wallace solo, 2 assists; Werne 3 solos, 4 assists.
Defense Grant Gardner. Offense Tanner Nix. Lineman Stephon Cozart.
Records: Crittenden 5-1 (1-0), Ballard 2-4 (0-1).