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Banged up Rockets come from behind to top Strasburg 20-14
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By Carol McIntire
A banged up, short-handed Conotton Valley Rockets team gutted it out Friday for a 20-14 Inter Valley Conference win over the Strasburg Tigers Friday at Leesville.
The Rockets were playing without the services of multi-purpose player Kamden Wright and had use of Zach Putnam only on offense.
“It took a lot tonight,” Coach Derek O’Hara said after celebrating the win with his team. “We kept fighting and came out on top. Zach had a bum leg, but he gutted it out.”
The Rockets had to come from behind to get the win and then stop the Tigers on their final drive of the night. The team was successful in both instances.
Trailing 14-12 with 5:21 left in the contest, Putnam engineered a 60-yard drive that took exactly two minutes off the clock and gave the hosts the lead.
Putnam found junior Brooks Bower on the outside for a nine-yard gain and then picked up the first down with a five-yard run to the Strasburg 47-yard line. On a second-down play, Putnam connected with Gavin Haney for a 47-yard catch and run to the endzone that put the hosts up 18-14. O’Hara opted to attempt a two-point conversion. Putnam found Haney open over the middle to convert the play. The Rockets led 20-14 but Strasburg would have 3:21 left on the clock to mount a comeback.
Earlier in the fourth quarter, it took the Tigers just over three minutes to march 73 yards for a touchdown and a 14-12 lead.
The Tigers quieted the crowd on the final drive with a quick first down to the Rocket 45-yard line.
The quietness was short lived.
Haney broke up Moore’s first down pass attempt. A sack of Moore for a six-yard loss on third down forced a fourth-and-21 desperation play from the Strasburg 40-yard line. Haney intercepted Moore’s pass to seal the victory.
O’Hara shared his team’s excitement following the win.
“This feels awesome for the kids,” the smiling coach said. “We talked all week about how this is a little bit of a rivalry game for us. We beat them two years in a row and we wanted to get that third year in a row.”
The coach had praise for Haney who made his presence felt on both sides of the ball.
“Gav’s a little bit of a crazy man. That’s how we describe him all the time. He had a couple drops early. He didn’t get down on himself. He refocused and made a couple really big plays at the end.”
The Rockets had opportunities early in the contest but failed to convert turnovers into touchdowns.
Conotton Valley drove to the Strasburg 34-yard line on the opening series of the game, but turned the ball over on downs. The Tigers went right to work and, six plays later Moore found the end zone on a 10-yard scamper. The extra point sailed left of the upright. The visitors led 6-0.
Luke Smith recovered a Strasburg fumble late in the first quarter, but the ensuing drive stalled on the 25-yard line and the hosts turned the ball over on downs.
Senior Noah Smith tied the game with a three-yard touchdown at the 3:15 mark of the second quarter. The two-point conversion pass failed.
The Rockets had another opportunity late in the first half.
Haney intercepted Moore’s third down pass, (his first of three during the game) with 2:44 left in the second period and the Rockets quickly moved the ball to the Strasburg 4-yard line. There, on a third-down play, Noah Smith was dragged down short of the goal line and the second quarter clock expired.
Putnam connected with Bower for a 70-yard passing touchdown with 8:04 on the third quarter clock to give the hosts a 12-6 lead. The 2-point conversion pass fell incomplete.
Again, Haney intercepted a Moore pass to kill a Strasburg drive, this time on the Rocket 8-yard line later in the quarter.
Moore found Derek Rissler over the middle for a short pass completion to Rissler who turned it into a 45-yard touchdown. Moore added the two-point conversion to give the Tigers a 14-12 lead and set up the final five-minute frenzy.
Conotton Valley led in total yards 352-199, rushing yards 147-83 and passing yards 206-116.
Putnam completed 12 of 23 pass attempts for 205 yards. Noah Smith racked up 95 yards on the ground in 23 carries. Luke Smith had 50 yards on 11 carries.
Bower led the defensive effort with five tackles and five assists.
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