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The Shelby County High School football team lost nearly every skill-position player from last year's squad, so head coach Todd Shipley wasn't sure what to expect from his inexperienced squad.
The team showed some explosiveness at the first passing tournament of the summer at the University of Louisville Saturday, going 2-1 but failing to advance out of pool play.
The U of L tournament's rules require that you must be undefeated in pool play to advance to tournament play. With three teams tied at 2-1 and one team at 0-3, no team from the Rockets' pool advanced.
In the opening game, the Rockets took down Hopkins Central 34-6, a new school formed from consolidation in Hopkins County.
"They didn't play very well, and I thought we did," Shipley said. "But them not playing well helped us a lot. It's pretty unheard of to hold a team to just six points in a passing-league game."
The Rockets opened with an interception and then turned that turnover into another six points when Branden Cresap hit Matt Page on a go route on the team's first possession. From there it was all Rockets.
"I thought we saw some things from a few guys on offense in that game," Shipley said. "(Sophomore) Ben Axline looked pretty good, and (senior) Ty Barnett caught the ball well out of the backfield."
Before the team's second game against Butler, Shipley said he warned his team of being over confident.
"I think we were very comfortable after winning that first game," he said. "I told the kids it was great to get a win, but (Hopkins Central) didn't play very well, so we couldn't just go out there and win."
Butler jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, but the Rockets closed the gap to 24-16 at halftime. However, Butler held the Rockets and then scored quickly, and coasted to a 44-32 win.
"I think that game was a real learning experience for our secondary," Shipley said. "We started poorly and then gave up too many big plays."
But the Rockets returned to whip Owen County in the final game of the day. Shelby County went on to win by three scores, despite giving up a few late scores to Owen.
"The thing that bothered me most from the tournament was that we gave up too many big plays," Shipley said. "Against Owen we hold them to a third-and-13 and then they throw a bomb over our heads for a score. The whole tournament it seemed like we'd play well for two or three plays, and then give up a big one. But I attribute a lot of that to the guys in our secondary not playing in any passing tournaments last year -- that's how young they are."
Shipley did note several positives, pointing out Justin Turley's good work on offense, and on defense he applauded the work of his linebackers.
"I thought Chris Taylor and DeParis Jones both had good tournaments, and Joe Hall made a lot of progress in getting ready for next year."
Cresap, a sophomore beginning his first season as the starting quarterback, gave the offense a look at the future.
"He showed a lot of glimpses of greatness, but he also showed that he's a sophomore. He played like a sophomore, but we saw a lot of things to be excited about, too."
The Rockets will head to Grant County for their second passing tournament this Saturday. The team's final tournament will be at the University of Kentucky on June 21, where the team will try to defend their title from last season.