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It might take a month or two or, heck, even into the summer before the SCHS football players can look back on the 2009 season without fixating on last week’s loss at Trinity.
But when they do, they will realize that, despite that loss, the season was a great one.
In the school’s last Class 6A season for the foreseeable future, the Rockets posted the team’s best record in more than a decade, hosted a home playoff game for the first time in 14 years and only lost to teams ranked in the top 15 of all the major polls all season.
The Rockets won five in a row after a season-opening loss to Bryan Station, and then after stumbling in a close game at Male, Shelby reeled off four more victories, including topping Seneca in the playoffs.
The fact that they didn’t play their best at Trinity is going to stick. That’s what’s going to make this realization take a while to sink in.
But a look back at the stats confirms the Rockets’ 9-3 season.
A resurgent running game balanced the offense.
Quinten Cottrell, Edwin Thomas, Nigel Beach and Kris Taylor formed a Smash-N-Dash unit that helped Shelby average 137 yards per game on the ground. The four also combined to score 19 rushing TDs.
The passing game returned to elite status with Branden Cresap back under center. He completed 60 percent of his passes (162 of 270) and had a stunning 30-5 TD-to-interception ratio.
After pulling in eight balls against Trinity, junior wide receiver Ben Axline finished the season with 45 catches and 8,320 yards and eight TDs. His catches and yards led the team, and his TDs tied fellow junior Tavis Elzy (39 receptions, 636 yards) and senior Matt Page (21 receptions, 453 yards). Cottrell and Thomas also had more than 20 catches each.
Both Cottrell (1,064) and Thomas (1,008) ended the season with more than 1,000 all-purpose yards, and Axline was a hair shy at 981.
The defense was just as strong, holding opponents to 22.3 points per game, while the offense averaged 34.4.
Shelby picked off 12 passes this season, the most this decade, with Cedric Hinkle, Kris Taylor, Josh Whitehouse and Daniel Dixie each recording two.
Middle linebackers Logan Forrest and Michael Brooks led Shelby County with 58 and 50.5 tackles, respectively, and Nigel Beach became a bear off the line to lead the Rockets with five sacks and 11 tackles-for-a-loss.
Shelby shutout Southern and dominated Fern Creek’s offense. The Rockets hung 63 on Bullitt East and 55 on Southern.
When you break it down, the season was solid. It was a great way to usher out the one-school system with dignified ending.
Now there’s nothing left but questions.
Who’s going where? Who’s coaching what? And what class will both schools be in?
On the surface the Rockets would be loaded next season, but we’ll just have to wait and see how it all shakes out.
If we’re lucky, next year will turn out a lot like this season.