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Shelby County High School's football team hung tough as long as it could Friday before Scott County's relentless rushing attack took over and led the Cardinals to victory, 40-9.
The Rockets (0-4, 0-1 District 8) scored the game's first nine points and held that lead through the first quarter before Scott County (3-1, 1-0) took control of the game.
"We were very, very competitive for the first half and much of the third quarter," SCHS Coach Todd Shipley said.
Matt Page, a former wide receiver who replaced the injured Branden Cresap as the starting quarterback, completed all three of his passes on the Rockets' opening drive, including a 13-yard touchdown throw to Tavis Elzy, who also caught the other two.
After missing the point-after kick, the Rockets forced a fumble on the Cardinals' second play, leading to a 27-yard field goal from Matt Nakatani and a 9-0 lead.
SCHS's defense limited Scott County to 18 yards rushing in the quarter, but that promising beginning quickly ended under an onslaught of Cardinal runs that controlled the clock and limited the Rockets' possessions.
Scott County picked up 142 yards on 20 carries in the second quarter alone, scoring on runs of 6 and 1 yards. For the game, the Cardinals rushed 51 times for 269 yards.
Shelby County, meanwhile, slowed down.
"Offensively, I think we came out running on a lot of emotion," Shipley said. "Then, when some passes were off or dropped and we weren't moving the ball as well, I think some mental frustration came into play."
After his 5-for-5 start, Page finished the half 5-of-9 for 70 yards. He also had 33 yards rushing, but 29 of those came in the first quarter.
And the Rockets' injuries were a key as the game went on. Shelby County had lost three players to season-ending injuries, and offensive lineman Matt Spencer and receiver Zay Harris both missed the Scott County game. Spencer was still nursing a high-ankle sprain, and Harris reinjured a deep-thigh bruise during the week that he originally suffered in the preseason.
With three receivers out - Page at QB, Ben Axline broken collarbone and Harris - the Rockets' spread-offense sputtered.
"We came out fired up because this was our first district game, and we knew Scott County was coming after us because of last year [when SCHS eliminated the Cardinals from the playoffs]," Shipley said. "And we kept it close for quite a while."
Still, entering the fourth quarter, the Rockets trailed just 22-9 before Scott County broke open the game with a short run for a score, a 35-yard pass to set up a TD and a blocked punt that was returned 27 yards for another.
The defense, kept the Rockets in the game.
"Despite giving up 40 points, I thought our defense played well," Shipley said. "Late in the game I think they got frustrated and maybe tried to make to many things happen. But we forced five fumbles and recovered three of them."
The offense, however, couldn't capitalize on those opportunities. Shelby County got just three points off the turnovers.
"Even if we just kick a couple more field goals, that changes the game," Shipley said. "At one point [just before the end of the third quarter] we recovered a fumble, down just 13 points, but we lost it right back. That was big."
Except for the dropped snap on the blocked punt, Shipley said he was extremely pleased with his special teams.
"I was surprised that we got the opportunity to return so many kicks because their [Scott County's] kicker is so good, but our guys did a great job on returns," he said. "And our kickoff and punt coverages were great."