August 18th, 2018

Holy Cross can't hold on in bid to upset Rockets

Block_eric thorne

Eric Thorne

Staff Writer


Holy Cross can't hold on in bid to upset Rockets
The Holy Cross defense forced 3 fumbles against Shelby County/ photo by Eric Thorne

 After a near perfect opening half and on the cusp of a stunning upset the Holy Cross football team watched victory slip away in the final minute as Shelby County rallied behind some divine intervention for a 32-28 win in the King of the Bluegrass Bowl on Saturday at Fairdale.

The Cougars (0-1) built a 28-10 lead with 4:58 left in the 3rd quarter only to see Shelby County quarterback Zach Miracle engineer a comeback for the Rockets including rushing for the go head touchdown with 56.6 seconds left in the game.

The game was a contrast of halves with Holy Cross forcing three first half fumbles and converting two into touchdowns. However, it was the Rockets who seized the offensive momentum in the second half while the Cougar offense became stagnant.

“The first half we played really well and was great for us, but the second really sucked at the end with the way the score ended up,” said Holy Cross quarterback Jaren McDonald. “Things were clicking for us early on, but then we couldn’t seem to move the ball in the second half.”

McDonald had a solid game completing 9 of 15 passes for 115 yards and one touchdown while rushing for 2 others. The senior rushed 8 times for 66 yards.

His lone mistake was errant throw that was intercepted by Matthew Rhodes while trying to protect a 28-25 lead with 3:05 left in the game.

“That was on me. I just over threw my receive,” McDonald said.

The Rockets took over at the Holy Cross 30 yard line and six plays later Miracle dashed in from the 6 -yard line.

Holy Cross was seeking its first opening game win since the 2011 season when they defeated Valley on their way to an 11-2 season.

Not only would a win over the Rockets have broken that streak it would also be a huge victory for the Class 1-A school over the much larger Class 4-A school.

Shelby County scored first on a 44-yard field goal from Christian Gayhart, but Holy Cross tallied three straight scores after that.

Luke Davis took the kickoff and ran 34 yards to midfield, and two plays later McDonald hit Gavin Foushee with a 48-yard touchdown pass.

The Rockets had to use a fake punt to gain a first down on the next series only to fumble the ball away and Philip Matthews recovered for Holy Cross.

It took only 2 plays for the Cougars to score with Davis sprinting 19 yards to set up McDonald’s 16-yard scoring run making it 14-3 with 10:01 left in the half.

The Holy Cross defense cashed in five plays later when a high snap to Miracle bounced into the hands of Nolan Siegrist. The junior linebacker weaved his way 35 yards to the Rocket 24-yard line.

“We weren’t surprised by them at all and our defense was very strong early on and that showed by us getting three fumbles,” Siegrist said. “We just have to keep the fundamentals up throughout the game, but I’m proud of this team.”

Davis promptly took the ensuing handoff and raced untouched for the score making it 21-3. The junior finished with 49 yards rushing.

“We got a little out conditioned I think late in the game, but we showed that we can play against big teams like this and definitely exploited them in first half,” Davis said. “We just have to keep focused, and we have amazing lineman that will open big plays for us this year.”

Shelby County continued to run it option offense looking for someone to move the ball, however Michael Phillips coughed up the ball after dashing 20 yards to the 24 with Andrew Schmitt recovering it for Holy Cross.

“Oh my gosh that was hard fought game,” Rockets coach Todd Shipley said. “They played really well in the first half and we just kept giving up the ball over and over. We told the plays we were running were good, but we had to get stops on defense and make something happened.”

William Davis tallied the Rockets first touchdown of the game on a 40-yard sprint to the end zone on their first drive of the second half cutting the lead to 21-10.

McDonald answered right back after following Davis to the line and bouncing outside for a 32-yard touchdown and a 28-10 advantage.

After that the Rockets offense got in gear.

“Just like any team whether you are up or down that first series of the second half is huge and we did score and so did they we didn’t move it after that at all,” Bronger said. “We gave them the ball on an onside kick and we had a short punt and a pick and that was the difference in the half. A short field each time.”

They drove 47 yards in 10 plays as Jose Carias carried it in from 8 yards out with 41.4 left in the third quarter.

Carias was the workhorse carrying 18 times for 118 yards

It took just 10 plays to slice the Holy Cross lead to 28-25 as Miracle ran in from 3-yards out and then hit Cameron Armstrong for the two-point conversion.

“I think nerves did start to play apart when they got it close there,” Siegrist said. “The best thing was we played our heart out in this game, and the experience of this game proved we know how to communicate with each other and that will pay off.”

With the Cougars reeling Shipley gambled and went for the onside kick.

Gayheart lined up and executed it to perfection.

“We had been watching the way they had been lining up and debated it and decided it was the right time,” Shipley said. “Our kicker hit it perfectly sending it 11 yards and recovered it himself.”

Bronger said that didn’t surprise him.

“I thought they would maybe try it and we told them, but being still early in the game we didn’t have our hands team in there, and give them credit they executed it and we didn’t go get it,” Bronger said.

While the Rockets didn’t capitalize on that drive the momentum had definitely shifted and set up Miracle’s winning score.

Shelby County finished with 303 yards rushing on 47 carries including 102 yards from Davis.

Holy Cross travels to Valley (0-1) next Friday for a 7:30 game.

  

 

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