Friday, November 5, 2010

Rockets eliminated from playoffs 28-14

Senior receiver Robert Cudnik makes a catch as his
Rockets tried to come from behind in the second half.
Bethlehem cashes chips on shoulder
MARION, Ky. – Shorthanded and not sharp on offense, the Rockets were unable to match the intensity that unranked Bethlehem brought to the opening round of the Class A playoffs Friday.

The Eagles won 28-14 behind a stellar performance from senior quarterback Clay Owens, who rushed for 121 yards and threw for 75. For Bethlehem, it was deserved justice. The Eagles felt disrespected after finishing third in the Class A Second District and took out all their frustrations on ninth-ranked Crittenden County, a team that finished the game without four starters due to injuries and disciplinary measures.

"Our kids felt they were being overlooked and came down here with a chip on their shoulders. They came ready to play and gave it all they had," said first-year Bethlehem coach Ron Koontz. "All we heard over the last week was how everyone was getting ready for Holy Cross."

The Eagles had lost close district games to Louisville Holy Cross and Kentucky Country Day, partly because of injuries to stars like Owens. With everyone healthy, the Eagles used a strong running attack to move the chains, control the tempo and manhandle Crittenden up front. For their effort, the Eagles return to Holy Cross again next week for a regional semifinal.

"(Bethlehem) is big and physical up front. We had some guys in there who aren't used to playing those positions and they whipped us," Rocket coach Al Starnes said. "We couldn't run the ball, so we tried to throw it and had trouble doing that."

The Rockets managed a paltry 57 yards on the ground. Had it not been for senior Robert Cudnik, Crittenden would have been in deeper trouble. Cudnik caught five passes in the game for 68 yards. He snagged a first-period touchdown pass – his team's only score from scrimmage – and returned a kickoff with just under seven minutes to play to pull the Rockets within seven. 

"Our hearts were in our throats when they returned that kickoff," the Bethlehem coach said. "But then we scored and that was a heartbreaker for them."

The Crittenden defense played with grit, but Bethlehem found running lanes with its spread offense, rolling up 16 first downs. Four Rocket turnovers, including three interceptions, helped the Eagles maintain control of the ebb and flow of the game.

"They wanted it and they had a heck of a quarterback," said Cudnik, who walked into the Bethlehem end-zone party after the game to shake hands with his victorious counterparts. "I went down there to show them respect."

The game was tight the whole way. Crittenden led 7-6 until right before halftime when Owens scored the second of his three touchdowns for a 14-7 edge at the break. He ran for the conversion, too.

A scoreless third period was dominated by defenses and Crittenden turnovers, but Bethlehem found its second wind late.

"Our defense kept us in it," Starnes said. "But you can't turn the ball over in a close game like that."

After Cudnik's kickoff return brought an uncommonly small home crowd to its feet, the Eagles responded. A short series later, they held the Rockets on downs with 2:13 to play near midfield then marched into the end zone with 1:24 to go to complete the upset. 

While the Eagle coach said his team was healthy for the first time since Week 4, the Rockets were less than full strength. Two starters had been benched for violating team rules. First Team All West Kentucky Conference tackle Stephon Cozart broke his leg in the final regular season game and wasn't able to play, and senior Terry Werne was knocked in the third period with a rib injury.

"We were hurt by not having all of our team in there, but you have to give Bethlehem credit. They got just after us."

Crittenden finished the season with three straight losses, the longest losing streak since early 2007.

Bethlehem    6    8    0    14
Crittenden 7    0    0     7

B-Clay Owens 6  run (kick failed) 6:04, 1st
CC-Robert Cudnik 15 pass from Brian Berry (Micah Hollamon kick) 3:18, 1st
B-Owens 1 run (Owen run) :51, 2nd
B-Owens 12 run (Ben Davis kick) 6:55, 4th
C-Cudnik 68 kickoff return (Hollamon kick) 6:53, 4th
B-Jerren Culver 6 run (Davis kick) 1:24, 4th

First Downs: Crittenden 10, Bethlehem 16
Penalties: Crittenden 5-40, Bethlehem8-65
Rushing: Crittenden 24-57, Bethlehem 46-245
Passing: Crittenden 12-26-3, 117 yds., Bethlehem 11-20-0, 90 yds.
Total Yards: Crittenden 174, Bethlehem 335
Fumbles/Lost: Crittenden 1-1, Bethlehem 1-1

Crittenden-Berry 8-38, Andrew Freeman 7-13, Tanner Nix 7-9, Dustin Hernandez 2-(-3). Bethlehem-Owens 21-121, Culver 9-81, Austin Downs 12-37, Jordan Cooper 4-6.
Crittenden-Berry 12-25-2, 117 yds., Nix 0-1-1. Bethlehem-Owens 10-16-0, 75 yds., Cooper 1-4-0, 15 yds.
Crittenden-Cudnik 5-68, Nix 4-27, Hernandez 2-10, Freeman 1-12. Bethlehem-Collin Crawford 3-36, Cooper 1-1, Culver 2-16, Downs 3-35, Elias King 1-2.
Bebout 4 solos, 2 TFL; Berry 8 solos, 3 assists, TFL, fumble recovery; Cudnik 6 solos, 3 assists, caused fumble; Freeman 2 solos, 3 assists, sack; Gaston assist; Hamby assist; Hernandez 12 solos, assist, 2 TFL; Knox 9 solos, 2 assists, 2 TFL; Long 7 solos, 2 assists; Nix 3 solos, 4 assists; Phillips 6 solos, 2 assists, TFL; B.Wallace 3 solos, 2 assists; D.Wallace solo, 3 assists, TFL; Werne 7 solos, 2 assists, TFL.
Pizza Hut Players of the Game

Offense Robert Cudnik. Defense Dustin Hernandez. Lineman Terry Werne.
Records: Crittenden 7-4, Bethlehem 7-4