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Rockets knock off once-beaten Bridgeport Bulldogs
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By Carol McIntire
In 1978, Conotton Valley Football Coach Don Hertler was a sophomore at North Canton Hoover High School. His junior varsity coach was Dick Gross.
Friday, Gross, who retired from coaching in 2011, was on the sidelines watching his former player lead his Rockets to a 42-18 win over the previously once-beaten Bridgeport Bulldogs.
“When Don was a sophomore our quarterback was Todd Blackledge: ever heard that name?” Gross asked leaning on the fence on the Rocket’s side of the field. “Don’s senior year, he was our quarterback and led the team to a Federal League title.”
Gross took a seat in a metal folding chair on the sideline and watched as the Rockets scored early and often.
Playing without the services of sophomore quarterback Zach Putnam, Gaige Galigher and Evan Rice became the one-two-punch for the home team and didn’t disappoint the fans, who packed the home stands for alumni weekend.
Rice and Galigher set the tone for the game as they bit off large chunks of yardage on Conotton Valley’s initial drive, first Galigher with gains of 14 and 19 yards on the first two plays of the game. With the Bulldogs on their heels, Rice chewed off seven yards and then 11 on his second carry to move the ball to the 9-yard line. On the next play Rice ran the final nine yards for the score with less than three minutes off the clock. Rice scampered, untouched into the end zone for the 2-point conversion.
Bridgeport would answer with a 68-yard drive that was capped off when quarterback Colin Jackson was flushed from the pocket and, as he scrambled, found Mason Alberts open along the sideline for a 56 yard catch and run to the end zone. The 2-point conversion failed and the Rockets led 8-6 with 6:38 remaining in the first period.
Conotton Valley freshman Damon Reardron returned the Bridgeport kick off to the Bulldog’s 38-yard line where freshman Kamden Wright took over and carried the ball to the 4-yard line. Rice went the final four yards to the end zone on the next play. Less than one minute had ticked off the game clock since the last score.
A Bridgeport fumble deep in their own territory was recovered by sophomore Rylan Bagby and set up the next Rocket touchdown; a 5-yard run by Rice.
The hosts enjoyed a 20-6lead after the first quarter.
Bridgeport opened the second quarter scoring with a 34-yard scoring strike from Jackson to Lamar Kendricks to cut the margin to 20-12. That was as close as the visitors would get.
On the ensuing kickoff, Galigher picked up the squib kick and returned it 65 yards for a score. Rice then found Galigher in the right corner of the end zone for the 2-point conversion.
The Rockets would add another long score when Wright returned a Bulldog punt 70 yards for a touchdown with 2:08 remaining in the first half. Smith’s 2-point conversion run was good and the Rockets enjoyed a 36-18 lead at intermission.
Both teams scored once in the third quarter, Bridgeport on a 38-yard pass from Jackson to Kendricks, and Conotton Valley on a Smith 1-yard run. Neither 2-point conversion was successful.
Rice led all rushers with 101 yards on 21 carries and scored three touchdowns and one 2-point conversion. He completed three of four pass attempts for 57 yards.
Noah Smith added 99 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown and Galigher ran for 59 yards in addition to the kickoff return for a score. He also scored on a 2-point conversion.
With the score 42-18 and the fourth quarter clock ticking away, Gross was still in his metal holding chair, cheering on his former student.
When asked if Hertler’s coaching met his standards, Gross replied, “He does a good job. They are lucky to have him as a coach.”
The Rockets host unbeaten Caldwell Friday in the homecoming game. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
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