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Rockets offense continues to struggle - Shelby falls 35-13 to No. No. 4 Manual

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By Todd Martin

The Shelby County offense, once a high-octane force continued to sputter Friday because of injuries throughout its lineup.

The Rockets, playing without 13 injured players, managed a meager 258 yards in a 35-13 home loss to Class 6A No. 4 Manual.

While the offense continues to look for answers, the defense has stepped up its play, despite the final score.

"I thought the defense played well again," SCHS Coach Todd Shipley said. "We caused three fumbles, and recovered two of them, and forced Manual to punt a few times. We talked about how this year's team is almost the polar opposite of last year.

"Last year, when the defense was struggling, the offense said 'OK, we'll go score.' This year, the defense needs that mentality. They have to go out and get stops."

Though the Rocket defense caused two turnovers, the offense gave the ball up three times on interceptions. Manual turned those three pickoffs into 21 points, while the Rockets were unable to capitalize on either of Manual's fumbles.

Manual intercepted the Rockets' first pass of the night, returning it to the 5-yard line to set up one score. Another score at the beginning of the second quarter put Manual up 14-6 at the half.

The Crimsons' then added scores on runs of 16, 8 and 5 yards in the second half.

"You just can't give a team like Manual that many chances," Shipley said. "But we're not hearing any complaining. The defense is supporting the offense right now while we get it figured out."

There were a few bright spots for the offense. Tavis Elzy caught six passes for 129 yards, including a 56-yarder. Elzy is quickly becoming a go-to deep threat for the Rockets after missing much of the summer workouts with and injured foot.

"He had two fantastic catches, just using his athletic ability to take the ball," Shipley said. "He's becoming that kid we've been looking for that can make big plays for us."

The Rockets struggled to run the ball, just 58 yards on 23 carries, but Shipley said he liked what he saw from two youngsters, freshman Michael Brooks and sophomore Quinten Cottrell, who led the Rockets' rushing attack.

Brooks picked up 40 yards on five carries late in the fourth, and Cottrell had 18 yards on nine carries, including a 6-yard TD run with about 2:30 to play in the game.

"They've both done a good job with JV, and I thought they looked pretty good," Shipley said. "We've been wanting to get Michael more carries, but he missed a little time with a back injury earlier in the season. We'll probably use both of them more as the season goes on."

The Rockets also got a strong game from punter/kicker Matt Nakatani, who hit two field goals (27 and 35 yards) in the first half and had several strong punts.

"Matt had a nice game, and he looked good on the field goals," Shipley said.

Now at 0-5 on the season, Shipley said the coaches and the team must stay positive.

"The one thing we have to understand is the situation [with injuries], and the kids are doing that," he said. "That, and we have to look for positives. We know we have troubles on offense right now, but, like we told them, the defense just has to pick it up."

Injury update

Shipley said sophomore receiver Ben Axline (collarbone) could possibly return for the Eastern game on Oct. 17, and the Rockets may get freshman running back/defensive back Darian Dugle (wrist) back next week for practice.

But with returns come losses. Edwin Thomas received a concussion against Manual and won't be available until next week. Tyler Phillips also suffered a mild concussion and will be kept out of contact this week. He may play Friday against Clark County.

Offensive tackles Matt Spencer (high ankle sprain) and Matt Axline (leg) are still day-to-day.

The Rockets also get an addition with New Jersey-transfer Jason Maahes, who, Shipley said, may be available this week. Maahes, under transfer rules, has to practice with the Rockets for a certain amount of time before he can play. Shipley said he'll likely use Maahes as a defensive end/linebacker, or he could try to use him possibly at running back or receiver.