FAYETTEVILLE – The Fayetteville Rockets football team experienced a tale of two halves against the Jefferson Township Broncos.
One week after winning the first conference title in team history, the Rockets returned to their home field for homecoming night and, at least in the first half, gave their fans a closer game than they thought they would get.
The Rockets struck first, less than six minutes into the contest. Caleb Dowers dove over the goal line for a two-yard score, giving Fayetteville an early 7-0 lead. The teams stayed scoreless throughout the rest of the first quarter before the Rockets struck for another score.
Finding themselves pinned deep inside their own territory, the Rockets turned to the ground game. Dowers took the ball at the two-yard line and sprinted 53 yards before being drug down from behind. On the very next play, quarterback Cole Schaefer kept the ball himself and rolled 45 yards for a touchdown. The Rockets missed the extra point, however, and settled for a 13-0 lead.
Outside of that two-play drive, Fayetteville’s offense was stymied in the first half by the Broncos. Part of the problem was an injury to Ryan Shaw, the team’s starting center. He limped off the field in the second quarter and did not return to the game. Later on that drive, Schaefer was forced to roll out to avoid pressure and his pass was intercepted. The ball was returned all the way the other way for Jefferson’s lone touchdown. The Rockets went into halftime with a 13-6 lead.
Head coach Kevin Finch credited his opponent’s effort in the first half defensively, preventing his team from getting into a groove on offense.
“Hats off to them, they had a great defensive scheme and it put their players in a great position to make some plays,” Finch said. “It gave us some fits. We had to respond to it.”
The Rockets did not have to make too many changes, instead leadership came from the offensive line at halftime.
“We changed up blocking schemes a little bit,” Finch said. “But at halftime the line just said ‘Get behind our backs, we’ll move the pile and get things moving.’ The line was confident the whole time and the running backs were hitting the holes the line was making.”
Fayetteville came out much better on offense in the second half. After forcing a fumble on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, the team marched down the field and scored on a Dowers run. Timmy Crone tried to keep the ball for a two-point conversion, but he could not convert.
The Rockets scored again on their next drive. Dowers ripped off another long run for his third touchdown of the game, and Chase Jester broke a few arm-tackles to convert the two-point attempt, giving Fayetteville a 27-6 lead. Eli Wolfer added a seven-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter to increase the lead to 34-6.
Fayetteville would score two more times in the fourth quarter, both thanks to interceptions. Crone picked off a fake punt and returned the ball to the Jefferson 20, setting up Jester’s two-yard score. Later in the quarter, after the Rockets pulled their starters, junior Tyler Kingus picked off a pass. The Rockets would convert a fourth-and-seven on the ensuing drive, as sophomore Luke Weiderhold carried the ball in from 11 yards out, scoring the final touchdown of Fayetteville’s 46-6 victory.
Dowers led the Rocket rushing attack, tallying 193 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries. The effort moved him over the 1,000 yard mark for the season with 1,098 and currently makes him 12th in the Cincinnati area in rushing yards. His average of nearly 157 rushing yards per game and 14 touchdowns this season also are top-15 in the area, and he is third in average yards per rush among players with over 100 carries this season.
Schaefer would add 11 carries for 86 yards and the 45-yard touchdown, his longest touchdown run of the season. Wolfer carried the ball nine times for 35 yards and a score.
Yet lost in all the offensive numbers could be just how well Fayetteville’s defense has played this season. The unit did not allow a point to the Broncos, as the only points came on the defensive interception. The Rockets defense has allowed more than 20 points in a game just once this season, last week in the team’s 44-30 victory over Manchester. That fact has not been lost on Finch.
“The defense played great too,” Finch said. “Week-in and week-out, they do a nice job but they’re kind of silent about it.”
The defense’s success is at every level, not just one particular position group.
“We’ve been strong from every level all year long,” Finch said. “The defensive line does a nice job getting off the line, the linebackers fly to the ball and the defensive backs do a great job keeping everything in front of them. They do their assignment well and our tackling has been solid this year. I’ve been proud of our defense all year long, they didn’t give up a point today and for the last few weeks they’ve been good against some very good offenses.”
Fayetteville enters their road contest at Portsmouth Notre Dame High School looking for their sixth win of the season. They will take on the 4-4 Titans Friday, October 23 at 7 p.m.