- Special Sections
- Public Notices
BARDSTOWN -- Despite several penalties and sloppy conditions, Shelby County held on to defeat Nelson County, 20-16, Friday night.
The downpour ended by kickoff, but the field was saturated, requiring two Spread-oriented teams to get creative.
Nelson used variations of the I-formation, with quarterback Tyler Martinez taking snaps under center and from Shotgun. The Cardinals scored on their first possession, capping a 70-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass from Martinez to Quentin Brooks.
It would be the Cardinals' only touchdown of the first half as Rockets Coach Todd Shipley adjusted the defense, bringing a safety down for additional run coverage and inserting Kris Taylor to add some heft on the line.
In fact, Taylor and his sizable teammate, Nigel Beach, were just the muscle Shelby needed in this mud-slog of a game. They played on both sides of the ball and rushed for a combined 89 yards on 15 carries.
"The option pays dividends when it's weather like this," Rockets quarterback Branden Cresap said. "We put the big boys in there and just let them pound it and pound it. That defense was praying for them not to run the ball anymore."
Cresap found plenty of success in the air, too, completing 6 of 14 passes for 144 yards.
Shelby got on the board with a 6-play scoring drive. On a third-and-14 from his 41, Cresap was under pressure when he put a dump pass over the middle, surprising receiver Ben Axline.
"He [a defender] tipped it, and it hit my right hand, and then it rolled across my shoulder and landed in my left hand," Axline said. "I just went with it."
After Cardinal Derek Brunhammer slid in the mud on the kickoff return, the Rockets' defense forced Nelson to go three-and-out and punt from the end zone.
On their first snap, Cresap threw Matt Page a 45-yard pass to set up Nigel Beach's 1-yard touchdown.
With 6:28 remaining in the half, Shelby was called offsides, one of their 12 penalties in the game. On a third-and-5, Cresap dropped the snap but picked it up and found time to connect with Axline, whose toes hugged the goal line long enough for a touchdown, putting the Rockets up, 20-7.
Their defense held Nelson to just 95 offensive yards in the first half, but the Cardinals came out of halftime showing more determination on both sides of the ball.
Nelson opened the second half with a 5-play scoring drive. Martinez found John Harrison in the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown. Then Harrison took down Cresap on a botched snap for a safety. Nelson trailed, 20-16, with 10 minutes to go.
"We just told them to keep making plays," Shipley said. "Sometimes in football you've got to have a bad memory. You've got to put things aside. I thought we did a good job of that.
"I still felt confidence in our defense for them [Nelson] to take it all the way down the field. Was I nervous? Oh heck yeah. But we've done this several times, and I'm very confident in our young men."
With less than two minutes in the game, the Cardinals regained possession on the 28-yard line and worked their way to the Rocket's 38.
Shelby was covering tight on deep passes, allowing Martinez to throw short. But the slick ball and time worked against Nelson, and Martinez threw three passes that fell incomplete to close the game.
"The team this year, we can find something deep," Cresap said. "That's good to have late in the season and in games like tonight, when things aren't going your way, to find a way to win the game."
This was the fourth consecutive victory for the Rockets (4-1), and Nelson (2-3) lost its third in a row. Shelby hosts Eastern in a non-district game Friday night.