Friday, October 19, 2018

Rockets repeat as district champions

Xander Tabor rushed for
a career-high 171 yards.
RUSSELLVILLE, Ky. – In the first season of the Coach Sean Thompson football era, the Rockets left Russellville Friday with a district title, and packed alongside the rest of the wet gear was a certain measure of newly-developed self confidence.

Perhaps the adage that "Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it's learning to dance in the rain" is befitting of the way Crittenden County overcame the elements and adversity – a sometimes sluggish offense – to win its second straight Class A First District championship with a 28-12 road victory.

For the second straight week, the Rockets' heralded passing game wasn't sharp. With a steady rain, Crittenden stayed grounded much of the time. Even when its star running back went down with an ankle injury, the Rockets stayed the course behind the pads of sophomore Xander Tabor.

The backup running back rushed for a career-high 171 yards and scored two touchdowns, assuring that the postgame dance would be held as scheduled on the Panther turf.

"There was a lot pressure on me," Tabor said as he enjoyed the after-party near midfield, in the shadow of a scoreboard that signaled his team had just won back-to-back league titles for the first time since 2001-2002. "I'm just happy I could fill in for (Devon Nesbitt) and do what I did."

Nesbitt, a former district player of the year, rushed for 89 yards in the game, mostly in the first period. He turned his ankle on the last play of the opening period, and played a bit more in the second quarter, but was on the sideline the last half. Tabor carried the mantle quite confidently, getting 27 carries – by far the most of his young career.

Quarterback Hunter Boone threw for two touchdowns – one each to Branen Lamey and Ethan Dossett – but didn't have his typical surgically-accurate hand, no doubt due to the weather. Boone completed 9 of 21 passes for 78 yards, the fewest Crittenden has rolled up through the air in more than two seasons, if you exclude last week's 77 yards in another rain game that was much more lopsided.

"A lot of guys stepped up tonight who hadn't been the guys who were making plays, but were fully capable. They stepped up and did a great job," said Coach Thompson. "We just need to point out X Man's (Tabor) performance tonight. He was great."

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Thompson pointed to several other personal efforts, including Boone's game-calling at quarterback and the work of seniors Gavin Dickerson and Sean O'Leary and sophomores Lathen Easley and Braxton Winders, among others. O'Leary had four tackles for loss in the game, including two sacks to give him sole possession of the team's single-season sacks record with 11, and career sacks with 18. Winders had 12 tackles in the game and Easley nine.

Just as worthy of exhalation was the Rocket defensive unit as a whole, which held Russellville (4-5, 2-1) to just one first down in the opening half and kept its skilled players corralled most the game. Save a long run by quarterback Jacob Naylor, the Crittenden defense held firm, allowing fewer than 100 yards rushing and 61 passing.

Crittenden, now 8-1 overall and undefeated in three league games, will host Hopkins Central next week with a chance to tie the school record for most wins in a regular season.

Crittenden Co. 14 7 7 0
Russellville 0 6 0 6

C-Ethan Dossett 14 pass from Hunter Boone (Boone run) 5:53, 1st
C-Xander Tabor 14 run (pass failed) 1:55, 1st
C-Branen Lamey 24 pass from Boone (Parker Johnson kick) 7:25, 2nd
R-Jacob Naylor 79 run (kick failed) 3:53, 2nd
C-Tabor 4 run (Johnson kick) 1:01, 3rd
R-Edward Barber 8 run (run failed) 7:59, 4th

First Downs: Crittenden 17, Russellville 7
Penalties: Crittenden 2-15, Russellville 2-10
Rushing: Crittenden 54-317, Russellville 29-132
Passing: Crittenden 9-21-0, 78 yds., Russellville 6-17-1, 61 yds.
Total Yards: Crittenden 395, Russellville 176
Fumbles/Lost: Crittenden 1-1, Russellville 4-0

Crittenden: Tabor 27-171, Devon Nesbitt 15-89, H.Boone 10-57, Gavin Dickerson 2-0. Russellville: Naylor 21-115, Barber 6-23, Ryan Flores 1-(-5), #15 1-(-1).
Crittenden: Boone Passing: Crittenden 9-21-0, 78 yds. Russellville: Naylor 6-17-1, 61 yds.
Crittenden: Dossett 6-35, Lamey 1-24, Payton Riley 1-7, Tabor 1-12. Russellville: Barber 3-26, Lennon Ries 3-35.
Dickerson 3 solos, 2 assists, TFL; Joyce solo, assist, TFL; Lamey solo; Langston solos, 2 assists; Nesbitt solo; O’Leary 5 solos, 3 assists, 4 TFLs, 2 sacks; Riley 2 solos, 2 assists; Guess assist; Jones 2 solos, assist; Phillips 2 solos; T.Boone 3 solos, 2 assists; Easley 5 solos, 4 assists, 3 TFLs, sack; Tabor solo; Winders 8 solos, 4 assists.
Players of the Week: Offense Xander Tabor, Defense Sean O’Leary, Linemen Devin Porter and Dylan Yates, Special Teams Parker Johnson.
Records: Crittenden 8-1 (3-0), Russellville 4-5 (2-1)