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At last Rockets get long awaited home game

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By Todd Martin

It's already October, but the Shelby County High School football team will play its first home football game tonight when DuPont Manual visits Robert Doyle Stadium.

"It's great to finally be at home," SCHS Coach Todd Shipley said. "If I had my choice, we'd play every game at home."

Not having to board a bus is a big plus for the Rockets (0-4), but that doesn't mean much to Manual (3-1, No. 7 in the state and No. 5 in Class 6A in The Courier-Journal's Litratings).

The Crimsons are coming off one of their worst losses in recent memory, a 57-0 drubbing by rival and No. 1-ranked St. Xavier last Friday. Shipley, however, doesn't think last week means much to Manual.

"I don't think they're going to come out here and try to take last week out on us," Shipley said. "They just played poorly against St. X. Now, I think they're going to come out and want to play well, that's what we have to be ready for."

One problem the Rockets have that won't seem to go away is injuries.

During Tuesday's practice, both starting tackles, Matt Spencer and Matt Axline, were sidelined. Shipley had hoped to get Spencer back from a high-ankle sprain, but he turned the ankle again this week in practice and is likely out again. Axline strained a leg muscle, and is listed as day-to-day.

When Shelby County lined up against Scott County last week, eight of the 11 starters on offense were different from the season opener, either in a new spot or just new starters.

"We'll just see who shows up healthy on Friday night," Shipley jokingly said. "But really, we almost look at it like 'Who's next?'

"You hate to have that attitude, but I've had the team doctors and trainers tell me that this is by far the most injures they've seen from one team. And we're just four games into the season.

"It's not like we're looking back at from the end of the year -- we still have six weeks to play."

After the offense struggled last week, Shipley said the Rockets could change their look a little against the Crimsons.

"We're working with Tyler Phillips more at quarterback," he said. "We want to try to get Matt Page back at his natural position, wide receiver. We're still going to use him some at quarterback, but we need him outside."

Phillips struggled last week in late duty against Scott County. He replaced Page late in the fourth quarter and completed 1 of 6 passes with 2 interceptions.

Defensively, the Rockets will face an attack similar to what they saw last week at Scott County.

"I didn't think the score indicated how well our defense played [at Scott County]," Shipley said. "We forced three punts and recovered three fumbles, and Scott Count scored late off some turnovers and a botched punt. We just need to eliminate the big plays."

Manual's top two runners, D.J. Hawk and James Clay, both average more than 8 yards per carry, which will test the Rockets' front seven.

Quarterback Joey Harness has completed just 43 percent of his passes (31 of 72), but he's very capable of throwing the long ball. He averages 19.2 yards per completion and has seven touchdown passes, four to receiver Derek Moore.

"They're a good team, but they had seven turnovers last week against St. X, and you just don't do that against one of the number one teams in the state," Shipley said.