Saturday, October 2, 2021

Rocket comeback fails in fourth period

MARION, Ky. – By his own admission, Rocket football coach Gaige Courtney had an odd vision in the fourth period. Turns out, it was a virtual mirage.

“I almost felt like we were winning,” he said. 

Rocket senior Logan Bailey caught a scoring
pass in the fourth quarter. 
Of course CCHS hadn’t led the entire way against Bethlehem, the No. 6 team in Class A, Friday night for the homecoming football game at Rocket Stadium. However, Crittenden had indeed turned its guns on the Eagles in the final period and were within striking distance – a couple of times – of posting an upset.

Despite losing 21-13, the Rockets could make a case for the coach’s apparition.

To build their argument, consider these points:

  • Crittenden had more first downs than Bethlehem, particularly in the second half when it moved the chains 11 times to the visitor’s five.
  • The Rockets piled up 340 yards of total offense to Bethlehem’s 251.
  • Take away an 86-yard touchdown by the Eagles’ grass-burner Ladarion Montgomery and a 40-yard scamper by running back Zane Wickliffe and Bethlehem had little to show for its offensive effort.
  • On 18 of Bethlehem's 29 running plays, the Eagles were thrown for a loss or gained fewer than three yards.
  • Bethlehem's strategy at times, was not typical of a team leading by two touchdowns with just over seven minutes to play. For instance, going for it on fourth-down at midfield, and failing, giving the Rockets life in Eagle territory.

Crittenden’s closing argument in the case for that euphoric feeling might rest on the fact that it won the fourth period – which was about the time Coach Courtney had his out-of-body experience. The Rockets, who have been a little late to the party more than once this season, finally got their engine going down the stretch, outscoring the Eagles 13-7 in the final frame. But by then, it was scarcely too late.

Bethlehem's Logan McMillan intercepted this
pass in front of CCHS's Kaleb Nesbitt, a
somewhat controversial fourth-quarter turnover
A bad break came with 2:45 to play when CCHS, trailing by eight, had rallied its offense and moved deep into Eagle territory. Rocket quarterback Luke Crider threw a sideline pass to a Crittenden receiver but it fell into the hands of an Eagle defensive back who was, by some estimation, already out of bounds by the time he had possession of the ball. Neither of two nearby officials seemed to have clearly seen the result of the play, yet conferenced for a period then gave the ball to Bethlehem. 

Misfortunate it was for the Rockets, but they had missed other opportunities that could have changed the complexion of the game, misfiring three times inside the Bethlehem 30.

Crittenden’s defense was stellar for the most part, and Crider had a record-breaking performance, setting a new single-game mark for completions and attempts, and becoming just the third CCHS QB in history to pass for more than 300 yards on a Friday night.

"It seemed like a tail of two games, honestly,” said Courtney, whose team falls to 2-4. “It’s like we start slow and then we get going. That’s kind of been our M.O. I thought the defense played really well all the way around. They just had some big plays that hurt us.”

Montgomery, who runs about a 4.4-second 40-yard dash, really put a dagger in the Rockets’ heart early in the fourth period when he broke loose after a busted play where the quarterback almost fumbled the ball. Montgomery jetted down the victor’s sideline almost the full length of the field for a TD to to give his team a 21-0 lead.

The Rocket defense largely smothered Bethlehem’s offense in the second half other than that play. The Eagles, now 5-1, had been averaging more than 40 points per game.

Crittenden won the rest of the final period with two touchdown passes, Crider connecting with seniors Logan Bailey and Brysen Baker for Crittenden’s only scoring. 

"We have to put a whole game together," Courtney said. "Offensively, you see that we can be really good at times... A lot of guys played well at times, especially in the second half."

Unfortunately, for Coach Courtney and the Rockets, those glimpses of refined waters are turning into mirages – nothing more than dry dessert. Reality checks are on the scoreboard, and the first-year Rocket skipper knows the work is cut out for his team to clear things up. Back at the drawing board, he'll be looking at the rushing game that's all but checked out – save the Hancock game – and the genesis of each football game. 

"For whatever reason we just start slow," he said. "We just have to start faster to put a whole game together to beat a good football team like that. We can't play half of a game and beat these teams. We have good teams all the way the way through the schedule."

Next week, the Rockets play at Trigg County, which lost Friday 49-18 to former Rocket skipper Sean Thompson’s Paducah Tilghman. Trigg is now 4-3 on the season. Tilghman is 2-4.


Bethlehem 7 7 0 7
Crittenden 0 0 0 13

B-Ladarion Montgomery 10 pass (Adam Winkenhofer kick) 6:59, 1st
B-Stone 1 run (Winkenhofer kick) 6:59, 2nd
B-Montgomery 86 run (Winkenhofer kick) 11:44, 4th
C-Logan Bailey 20 pass from Crider (Preston Morgeson kick) 9:10, 4th
C-Brysen Baker 11 pass from Crider (pass failed) 5:33, 4th

First Downs: CCHS 16, BHS 12
Penalties: CCHS 10-90, BHS 8-80
Rushing: CCHS 27-38, BHS 29-143
Passing: CCHS 27-44-2, 302. BHS 11-31-0, 108
Total Yards: CCHS 340, BHS 251
Fumbles/Lost: CCHS 0-0, BHS 4-1


CCHS: Morgeson 17-41, Kaleb Nesbitt 1-(-1), Crider 9-(-2). BHS: Winkenhofer 1-(-21), Martavious Smith 1-1, Zane Wickliffe 12-61, Ladarion Montgomery 6-124, Stone 8-(-22).
CCHS: Crider 27-44-2, 302. BHS: Stone 11-31-0, 108.
CCHS: Morgeson 6-59, Bailey 5-31, Hayden Adamson 1-9, Brysen Baker 8-92, Trace Derrington 2-23, Nesbitt 5-88. BHS: Eli Peake 1-20, Logan Cross 2-23, Montgomery 2-18, Justin Popovich 1-14, Wickliffe 3-30, Hayden Osborne 1-5.
Coleman Stone 2 solos, 4 assist, TFL; Trace Derrington 2 solos; Dylan Yates 5 solos, 3 assists, 3 TFLs, sack; Logan Bailey 4 solos, 4 assists, fumble recovery; Zech McGahan solo, 3 assists; Sam Impastato 4 solos, 3 assists, sack; Case Gobin 4 solos, 5 assists, TFL, Kaleb Nesbitt solo, assist, TFL; Briley Berry 5 solos, assist; Preston Morgeson 2 solos; Gattin Travis solo.
Players of the Game
Offense Brysen Baker, Defense Dylan Yates and Logan Bailey, Lineman Ben Evans.
Records: Crittenden 2-4, Bethlehem 5-1