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Rockets roll from the start

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Total rout of defending champs

By Josh Cook

Shelby County’s football team made a major statement in its district-opener Friday night, annihilating North Bullitt, 49-0, at Robert Doyle Stadium and proving the Rockets should be a team to be reckoned with in Class 5A, District 4 this season.

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Shelby County (5-2, 1-0) rolled up 543 yards of total offense  – 366 rushing, 177 passing – for its fourth victory in its last five games.

“Our offensive coaching staff made some outstanding play calls,” Rockets Coach Todd Shipley said. “I thought our offensive play calling was always one step ahead of them.” 

Not to be outdone, Shelby County’s defense held the Eagles (3-4, 0-2), the reigning district champs, to 79 yards (68 rushing, 11 passing) of offense after North Bullitt entered the game ranked ninth in 5A in rushing (265 yards per game).  

Once again senior quarterback Zach Shipley led the Rockets. He passed for 169 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 119 yards and two more TDs. But he definitely didn’t do it alone.

Senior wide receiver Michael Barry had six catches for 78 yards, including a 20-yard TD. Senior wingback Chase Manica rushed six times for 81 yards and two TDs, and senior tight end/linebacker Deric Hyman had a 32-yard touchdown catch and a team-high tying 5.5 tackles. Junior linebacker Nick Waurio also recorded 5.5 tackles, senior Jacob Hudgens had 4.5 stops and junior cornerback Dalton Thompson tackled a North Bullitt runner in the end zone for a safety.

Even freshman Malik Manica, Chase’s cousin and a big contributor on defense so far this season (he had four tackles against the Eagles), got into the act with a 31-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

That tone was set on the Rockets’ first possession, when they required only three plays to score. The first was a 40-yard pass from Shipley and Chase Manica. The second was a 6-yard throw from Shipley to freshman Michael Perry. And the final one was Shipley’s 9-yard touchdown run.  

After Shelby fumbled on its next possession, it was the defense’s turn to take charge. The Eagles drove inside the Rockets’ 10 – amassing more than half (44 yards) of their total offense in doing so – before Shelby forced them to turn the ball over on downs.

Taking over at its own 2, SCHS promptly drove down the field, mostly through the air. Shipley completed four passes – all to Barry – including a 20-yard touchdown strike to make it 14-0 early in the second quarter.

“They kind of dared us to throw early, so we did,” Todd Shipley said.

North Bullitt’s Mitchell Allen returned the ensuing kickoff to the Rockets’ 35 – Thompson made a touchdown-saving tackle on the runback – but on the Eagles’ subsequent second play from scrimmage, Hyman forced a fumble.

“That might have been the beginning of the end [for them],” Shipley said.

If it wasn’t, Shelby’s ensuing 8-play scoring drive, which was capped by Chase Manica’s 11-yard touchdown run, likely was.

The second half was pretty much all Rockets.

Shipley returned the third quarter kickoff 22 yards to his own 47. Five plays later Shelby reached the end zone again on Shipley's 32-yard TD toss to Hyman. Barry’s PAT failed, but Shelby still led 27-0 less than two minutes into the second half.

The Rockets stopped North Bullitt on a fourth-and-4 from its own 46, and five plays later Shipley’s 17-yard TD run, followed by Barry’s PAT, made it 34-0.

“Zach did a great job of reading the defense and taking what the defense gave us,” Todd Shipley said. “And he tucked and ran the ball a few times, too.”

After Shelby’s defense stopped the Eagles again the Rockets scored their third third-quarter touchdown on their third possession – on Chase Manica’s 32-yard run.

The Rockets added two points to their lead early in the fourth quarter when Thompson tackled North Bullitt’s Daulton Walls in the end zone for a 6-yard loss.

On Shelby’s ensuing possession Malik Manica capped the scoring with his touchdown run.

The Rockets host Bullitt Central (6-2, 2-0) in what could be the district-deciding game at 7:30 p.m. Friday.