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Rockets finish passing season at UK - Team has strong showing in final tournament

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By Todd Martin

The SCHS football team traveled to the University of Kentucky's passing tournament Saturday to end the summer session.

The Rockets went 3-0 in pool play to advance to tournament play and then knocked off Prestonsburg in the first round before falling to Manual in the quarterfinals.

"You know how sometimes you're just not clicking on one side of the ball?" SCHS head coach Todd Shipley said. "Well, we weren't clicking on either side."

Manual opened play with a touchdown on their second play from scrimmage, and after stopping the Rockets on their first possession, the Crimsons again scored on their second play.

The Rockets closed the gap to 21-14 at the half, but Manual pulled away for the win in the second half.

Against Prestonsburg in the opening tournament game, Shelby fought through a very tough, physical game for a 35-33 win.

"It was a battle," Shipley said. "They hit three bombs on us, and we trailed most of the game."

Shelby County scored with less than one minute to play, and then Justin Turley knocked away a pass to end the game.

The Rockets dominated pool play, drilling Western Hills 24-7, Lafayette 24-19 and Holy Cross 24-13.

Overall, Shipley said the team improved through the three summer passing tournaments, and he and the coaches learned a lot.

"We went in to this summer with a lot of unknowns, and I think the guys handled themselves well," Shipley said. "We were able to answer a lot of questions. Branden Cresap looked good (at quarterback). I think he's going to be fine this year. There's going to be some growing pains because he's new and he had four new receivers. The only one back is (Matt) Page and he's playing a new position."

One of the biggest questions Shipley had going into the passing tournaments was the team's secondary and linebackers.

"I think we really answered questions in the secondary," he said. "Rico O'Bannon really stood out and looks like he'll be solid for us back there. Then we'll have Matt Axline, Page, Justin Turley, Coty Bland and Ryan Allen all mixing in and out. We'll have fresh guys and I think we'll be OK. And I feel good about our linebackers now. Jake Whitfield, an outside linebacker, looked very good Saturday, and he's been getting better and better."

Big Man Challenge

UK's passing tournament also has a little something built in for the linemen on teams with a Big Man Challenge.

The competition pits eight players from each team against each other, although only five can compete in each event. Shelby County finished up around seventh out of 14 teams, Shipley said.

Matt Spencer had several top five or higher finishes individually, including a tie for first in the 35-pound sandbag toss.

The team competed in five different events: 185-pound bench press, sandbag toss, pushing a van 400 meters, fireman's walk carrying a 225-pound weight and an obstacle course.

"The kids really had a good time with it, and I think it inspires them to get back into the weight room and work," Shipley said. "They saw the size of some of those other teams, and thought 'Wow, I have to work and get bigger.'"