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If Shelby County could have stopped four plays by North Bullitt on Friday night, who knows how the game might have turned out?
Instead, the Rockets fell on the road, 27-14, dropping to 0-2 on the season.
They started the game with an onside kick that really served two purposes: to keep the ball away from North Bullitt's dangerous return man, Dalton Cissell, and to try to provide a quick spark. But that didn't work because the kick failed to travel the required 10 yards.
"We saw on film that it would be there," SCHS Coach Todd Shipley said. "We worked on it all week, and on Thursday [kicker] Matt [Nakatani] was seven-for-seven. It just stopped about a yard-and-a-half short -- it didn't bounce like we thought it would.
"But for us that's a play. We were 10 of 13 on onside kicks last year. It's not unusual for us."
North Bullitt (3-0) took over on the Shelby 48-yard line, and grabbed the lead on its second play, when the versatile Cissell threw a halfback pass for a 48-yard touchdown. The Rockets never caught up.
"It was a different formation, but we prepared for that," Shipley said. "They did it against Lafayette, and we knew it was coming -- we just didn't make the play."
North Bullitt missed a 44-yard field goal attempt on its next possession, but on the third possession the Eagles struck with another big play.
This time Shae Ellis took a reverse and raced 44 yards for a touchdown with just less than four minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Shelby forced a fumble that DeParis Jones recovered, giving the Rockets a spark about midway through the second quarter.
Shelby turned that play into a score, when Branden Cresap hit Justin Turley with an 18-yard strike, cutting the North Bullitt lead to 13-7.
However, the Eagles big play No. 3 was coming. Cissell caught a 56-yard pass from quarterback Jordon Mayberry, and North Bullitt took a 20-7 lead into the break.
Three plays that went for touchdowns and totaled 148 yards doomed the Rockets in the first half.
That, and Shelby's offense never clicked.
"I don't think we got in a rhythm at all on offense," Shipley said. "We changed our blocking scheme after the first couple of series and that helped, but we just never seemed to get motivated."
Ty Barnett carried much of the load for the Rockets in the first half, gaining 65 yards on 11 carries, but the passing game sputtered. Cresap had just five completions and 78 yards because North Bullitt's pressure was constantly in his face.
The Rockets looked better in the second half, cutting the lead to 20-14 when Cresap hit Tavis Elzy for a 40-yard score on a fourth-and-23 with 4:31 remaining in the quarter.
But Cissell made sure that momentum shift was short-lived.
On the first play from scrimmage, he sprinted around the left side 66 yards for the game's final score.
Shelby County had chances to cut into the lead in the fourth quarter, but an interception stopped them on the North Bullitt 1 with 4:45 to go, and a holding call negated Cresap's 13-yard scramble for a score with just less than two minutes to play.
Shipley applauded Cresap's play in the game -- the quarterback completed 17 of 33 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns and added 63 yards rushing.
"Branden was the best guy we had on offense," he said. "Anytime you play, you have to have that individual makes plays when you need them. Branden tried to be that guy, and he had some big plays. But we need some playmakers right now.
"This week we're going to have to open positions back up. It's everywhere, because we have guys not getting it done. If you're not performing, we have to find someone that will."
Shipley did, however, add a positive note about the game.
"We've been in two games, and they've been close," he said. "There's just a few key points, and we're a better football team. We're going through some growing pains, but that's part of it. We're close, but we just have to have some kids step up and make plays."
Rockets vs. Doss
American Founders Bank is selling tickets for Friday's home football game against Doss. The bank will have tickets available from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. today through Friday.