Friday, September 29, 2023

INSTANT CLASSIC: Rockets get Big District Win

MARION, Ky. – An Old Testament scroll couldn’t hold all of the highlights from the Rockets’ 28-14 district-opening victory over Murray High Friday night. There were too many huge plays, turnovers, ups, downs, almosts and what-ifs to recount.

Bennett McDaniel runs after picking up
a first-half fumble against Murray High.
In a stew pot of remarkable efforts by Crittenden County players, suffice it to say that perhaps the most critical balls were put into the air by quarterback Micah Newcom. Contrary to conventional thinking, however, they didn’t roll off his fingertips. Instead, perhaps the most fruitful acts were the senior's punts.

On six punts – minus one of those that was blocked late in the game with Newcom’s back pressed nearly against his own goal post – he averaged more than 40 yards. It didn’t go unnoticed, and after boiling down all of the extraordinary feats, it was the balls off his cleat that likely spelled doom for the Tigers.

It’s no secret that the Rocket kicking game has been a bit lackluster until this week. Newcom’s ability to keep Murray pinned down in its own territory was key to the Rockets getting a First District Class 2A win that could end up ensuring a first-round home game in the playoffs.

Pull up a chair and grab a cup of coffee if you’d like to dig deeper into the nuts and bolts of this contest that looked at times like a masterpiece and at others like blooper reel.  

Kaiden Travis (53) blocks a punt in the
second half that returned for a TD.
As CCHS coach Gaige Courtney said trying to recap the events after it was over, “I don’t even know where to start. It was such a crazy game.”

Here’s a shot at it, but by no means are these the only noteworthy aspects:

•Crittenden recovered four Murray fumbles.

•After the first one, which was recovered by linebacker Bennett McDaniel, CCHS gave it right back with a fumble of its own. After another recovered MHS fumble, the Rockets were quickly intercepted. In short, just one of the fumble recoveries set up a Rocket TD, but the rest of the turnovers did hobble the Tigers.

•The Rockets were, however, able to capitalize on special teams mistakes, forcing muffs and creating havoc for the Murray punter. It They converted a couple of those into points. 

•The Tigers scored twice, once on a fumble recovery returned 87 yards. The other was MHS’s most successful offensive series of the game, keeping the ball on the ground with an option-style rushing game that went for 72 yards. Crittenden unveiled its own RPO option surprise in the second half, which whipped up some big gainers.

•The Rockets were intercepted twice. Murray once.

•Newcom completed 15 of 26 passes, including two touchdown strikes to Tyler Belt and one to Caden Howard.

•Crittenden’s fourth-quarter touchdown that made it a two-possession deficit for Murray was delivered by Kaiden Travis and Brayden Poindexter. Travis blocked a punt and Poindexter scooped and scored. 

•The Rockets scored twice in the final 1:08 of the first half.

•There were eight possession changes in the game’s final eight minutes, five in the last two minutes. 

If there was anything remotely sane about how this victory unfolded for the Rockets, it was their defense. Crittenden held a potent Tiger offense, averaging nearly 400 yards and over 34 points a game, to a fraction its typical output.


“The guys made a lot of plays. We always talk about turnover ratio and we were just happy to be on the other end of that tonight. When a team turns the ball over that much… and we had some, too,” Courtney said. “We had our fair share. That was the biggest takeaway from the game, the turnover margin. There were so many big plays, specials teams were huge and Micah punted the ball extremely well and was able to flip the field. There were just so many plays in the game. Poindexter scored on that one, right?”

Yeah coach, it was hard to keep up. 

“It was a tough game,” Courtney continued. “A lot of things in the last couple of minutes, blocked punts, turnovers. We’re down there about to go up by 21 and you blink and (Murray) is running the ball the other way.”

While it may take days for the Saturday morning quarterbacks to sort through this instant classic, one thing is for certain, the Rockets hold destiny in their hands. In a ferociously tough district, they’re one win from being able to finish at least second and be home in November for the playoff opener.

Crittenden will be on the road next week for a non-district game at Ohio County.


Murray High 7 7 0 0

Crittenden Co. 8 14 0 8


C-Caden Howard 13 pass from Micah Newcom (Gabe Keller pass from Newcom) 5:42, 1st

M-Jeremiah Jones 87 fumble return (Hank Fronza kick) 2:57, 1st

M-Kainoa Olive 18 run (Fronza kick) 2:36, 2nd

C-Tyler Belt 8 pass from Newcom (kick failed) 1:08, 2nd

C-Belt 16 pass from Newcom (Casey Cates pass from Newcom) :05, 2nd

C-Brayden Poindexter 20 blocked punt return (pass failed) 8:49, 4th


First Downs: CCHS 9, MHS 8

Penalties: CCHS 10-102, MHS 13-121

Rushing: CCHS 24-92, MHS 28-93

Passing: CCHS 15-26-2, 94; MHS 8-22-1, 54

Total Yards: CCHS 186, MHS 147

Fumbles/Lost: CCHS 3-1, MHS 4-4



CCHS: Gattin Travis 5-25, Jacob Carder 4-(-5), Tyler Belt 2-40, Micah Newcom 13-32. MHS: Ben Davis 1-(-17), Kainoa Olive 18-75, Jeremiah Jones 7-26, Zavion Carman 1-4, Collins Wilson 1-5.


CCHS: Micah Newcom 15-26-2, 94. MHS: Wilson 6-18-1, 25; Jones 2-4-0, 29.


CCHS: Casey Cates 1-1, Caden Howard 4-29, Belt 2-24, Gabe Keller 4-31, Travis 4-9. MHS: Carman 2-12, Kamden Hudspeth 1-2, Simon Rickman 1-13, Jones 2-9, Olive 1-2, Daven Hood 1-16.


Keller 2 solos; Levi Piper 3 solos, assist; Braden Mahnke 3 assists, 4 solos, caused fumble, 2 TFL, sack; G. Travis 10 solos, TFL; Howard 5 solos; McDaniel 2 solos, 2 assists, fumble recovery; Camron Belcher 2 solos; Cates 2 solos, assist, fumble recovery; Brayden Poindexter 7 solos, 3 assists; Tyler Belt 2 solos, interception; Grayson James solo, 3 assist, TFL; Kaiden Travis 2 solos, 3 assists, caused fumble, fumble recovery, 2 TFL, blocked kick; Lane West assist.

Players of the Game: Defense team award; Offense Tyler Belt, Lineman Braydin Brandsassee; Special Teams Kaiden Travis.

Records: CCHS 3-3 (1-0), MHS 5-2 (0-1)