Friday, November 4, 2011

Rockets fall short in overtime playoff game

Rocket DB Wes Evers grabs an arm of Hancock RB Justin Hamilton
while CCHS teammates Brenden Phillips (20) and Zach Tinsley (44)
converge on the play
HAWESVILLE, Ky. – If you look at it one way, Hancock County had the odds in its favor when the Hornets forced overtime in the Class 2A playoff matchup Friday against Crittenden County.

The home-standing Hornets had already played two overtime games this season on their own turf. They had lost both – once to 5A Grayson County in the season opener and in Week 7 to 2A district foe and third-ranked Owensboro Catholic.

Third time was a charm for Hancock as it took just one offensive play in OT to edge the Rockets 27-21 and dash Crittenden County's hopes of turning an otherwise grueling season into playoff bliss. Instead, it was Hancock that celebrated following a 10-yard run by Justin Hamilton to seal a comeback victory and advance to the regional semifinals against Murray.

Murray beat Union County 14-6 to advance to the semifinals.

The Rockets had first chance to draw blood in overtime, but after three plays, including a five-yard delay-of-game penalty, Crittenden was facing fourth-down and 13. Enter kicker Micah Holloman, who had made five field goals this season and was perfect on three extra points during the game. However, the soggy field provided feeble footing for the sophomore kicker, and he slipped planting to make the attempt. The ball went under the crossbar.

Hancock did not waste this overtime opportunity and tossed the ball to Hamilton, its top rusher this season. He flanked the line and weaved through the Rocket defense backfield to the end zone.

"Our kids did a great job," Rocket coach Al Starnes. "I'm proud of them after all the adversity we've faced this season. We'd battled adversity all year long and we battled in this game to the end."

Rocket DB Dustin Hernandez meets Hancock's Dylan Hubbard
at the goal line, but Hubbard leaps into the end zone with a
crucial two-point conversion in the fourth quarter.
It was an unlikely ending for a team that was at times near the brink of collapse. Hardly anyone expected Crittenden had a chance to beat Hancock. Injuries and other disciplinary issues had left the Rockets shorthanded for every game except its first. In this one, Crittenden was playing without one of its best lineman, Eli Bebout, who was ejected two weeks earlier and forced to sit out, and perhaps its top defensive player, Devin Wallace, who blew out a knee a month ago. 

Otherwise, most other personnel problems had been resolved and it appeared early that the Rockets were poised for an upset. Crittenden took a 7-0 lead on a touchdown pass from senior quarterback Bryce Willis to Dustin Hernandez. Crittenden forced the Hornets to punt on their first two series of the game, and the Rockets were moving the ball on offense. Leading by a touchdown, Crittenden had driven the ball to the Hancock 12 thanks to a 26-yard pass to Gardner. However, a holding penalty helped stall the drive and the Rockets turned it over on downs.

"If we score again there in the first half, it puts a lot of pressure on them," Starnes said. "But down just one touchdown they didn't panic and they were able to do what they do best – run the ball."

The Hornets rushed for just 61 yards in the first half because Crittenden's offense dominated play and kept the ball most of the time thanks to three long drives. The second half was a different story. Hancock piled up 147 yards rushing the last two periods, and completed its only two passes, one of which set up a game-tying touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.

The momentum changed at that point. Hancock tied it with a touchdown run by Hamilton and fullback Dylan Hubbard added a crucial two-point conversion run. It turned a 21-13 Crittenden lead into a temporary stalemate with six minutes to play. The Hornets desperately needed that conversion run after it had missed an extra-point kick following their second touchdown. 

"I knew if we didn't score (on the last drive) it was going to be tough because we were having trouble stopping their running game," Starnes said.

His team had a chance to close the deal in regulation, but after driving 40 yards time ran out with Crittenden 28 yards from the goal line.

Crittenden County    7    0    14   0    0
Hancock County       0    0    13   8    6

CC-Dustin Hernandez 21 pass from Bryce Willis (Micah Hollamon kick) 4:58, 1st
HC-Dylan Hubbard 48 run (Jacob Brown kick) 10:51, 3rd
CC-Willis 1 run (Hollamon kick) 7:04, 3rd
HC-Hubbard 11 run (kick failed) 1:12, 3rd
CC-Hernandez 67 pass from Willis (Hollamon kick) :06, 3rd
HC-Justin Hamilton 14 run (Hubbard run) 6:07, 4th
HC-Hamilton 10 run, OT

First Downs: Crittenden 15, Hancock 10
Penalties: 8-50, Hancock 4-20
Rushing: Crittenden 43-157, Hancock 36-208
Passing: Crittenden 14-22-1, 197 yds., Hancock 2-7-0, 36 yds.
Total Yards: Crittenden 350, Hancock 244
Fumbles/Lost: Crittenden 1-0, Hancock 0-0

Crittenden-Grant Gardner 11-72, Hernandez 16-48, Brenden Phillips 1-0, Willis 15-37. Hancock-Hubbard 13-80, Hamilton 17-97, Koert Morris 3-27, Tyler Morris 1-3, Karl Kreisle 1-1.
Crittenden-Willis 14-22-1, 197 yds. Hancock-K.Morris 2-7-0, 36 yds.
Crittenden-Hernandez 5-113, Gardner 7-46, Bobby Knox 1-13, Wes Evers 1-21. Hancock-T.Morris 1-14, Ben Basham 1-22.
Asbridge 2 solos, 2 assist, fumble recovery; Clark 3 solos, 7 assists; Cozart 3 solos, 4 assists; Dickerson solo, 5 assists; Evers 4 solos, 4 assists; Gardner 2 solos, 6 assists; Gilbert 2 solos, 4 assists; Hernandez 3 solos, 4 assists; Knox 6 solos, 2 assists, 2 TFL; Mayes 3 solos, 4 assists; Phillips 4 solos, 9 assists; Tinsley solo; Willis solo, 6 assists.
Pizza Hut Players of Game: Offense Dustin Hernandez, Defense Bobby Knox, Lineman Stephon Cozart.
Records: Crittenden 3-8, Hancock 6-5