FAYETTEVILLE – A season that was at times both trying and triumphant came to an end for the Fayetteville Rockets football team last Friday night.
In front of a packed house celebrating senior night, the Rockets rocked Eastern Pike, 46-0.
It did not appear like it would be a blowout early. Senior Eli Wolfer started the scoring for the Rockets with a 21-yard touchdown run at the 9:13 mark of the first quarter, giving Fayetteville a 6-0 lead.
After a 52-yard touchdown pass from senior Timmy Crone to senior Luke Davis was nullified due to an ineligible man downfield, the Rockets punted. On the ensuing drive for Eastern, the Rocket defense bent, but did not break, allowing the Eagles to drive inside the Rocket 20 before batting away a fourth-down pass.
Fayetteville marched right back down the field in the second quarter, thanks in large part to a 48-yard run by Chase Jester. Caleb Dowers finished the drive with a nine-yard touchdown run and Timmy Crone ran in the two-point try to give the Rockets a 14-0 lead.
After another Eagles drive stalled inside the 20, Dowers broke a pair of tackles and reversed field on his way to a 93-yard touchdown run that gave the Rockets a 20-0 lead with 5:55 left in the half.
Yet again, the Eagles attempted a fourth down conversion and yet again the Rockets turned them away. Fayetteville drove down the field and added another touchdown, this one coming on a 22-yard pass from Crone to Davis that was not called back due to a penalty.
The extra point gave the Rockets a 27-0 lead at halftime.
Crone would add another touchdown, leaping over a defender to make a catch and a 46-yard touchdown reception. Quarterback Cole Schaefer got a touchdown of his own, a one-yard dive that gave Fayetteville a 40-0 lead.
The team’s final touchdown nearly came on a 66-yard run by Dowers, but a chop block negated that play. On the very next snap, Wolfer ripped off a 75-yard touchdown run to give Fayetteville the 46-0 margin they would win the game by.
Both Dowers and Wolfer finished well over 100 yards rushing on the day. Dowers tallied 161 yards and two scores on 15 carries while Wolfer ran for 182 and two touchdowns on just 11 carries. Jester also had a good day on the ground, picking up 63 yards on eight touches.
Rockets head coach Kevin Finch says his offensive line works together extremely well, which allows his running game to have success.
“They’re a tight-knit group, a smart group,” Finch said. “They’ve seen all sorts of fronts. They just take a lot of pride in playing as a unit and driving people off the ball.”
Of course, it does not matter how well the offensive line plays if the running backs are unable to take advantage of it. Luckily for the Rockets, that wasn’t a problem with Dowers or Wolfer.
“Caleb made a great cut and once he gets a gap he can take it up into the open field,” Finch said. “Eli’s the same way, although he’s more of a power runner.”
The team’s defense played well too, an obvious fact given they didn’t allow a point to the Eagles. Fayetteville’s defense has allowed one touchdown or fewer in four of the team’s nine games this season, but this was the squad’s first shutout.
“The defense played fundamentally sound,” Finch said. “We’ve had a couple close calls throughout the year, and we’ve had a couple bounces that really could have went the other way. I’ve been proud of our defense and our defensive staff for what they’ve done all year long. They wanted to go out this way and they left it all out on the football field.”
It was a bittersweet ending for the Rockets, who missed out on a playoff spot. Finch had good things to say about the seniors who played their final game last week.
“All of the seniors did a great job this year,” Finch said. “Shaefer responded well coming into his senior year and did a great job running the offense. Crone was a wide receiver-quarterback hybrid, he was always a big play away from taking it to the house. Noah Bailey was such a team player all year long and Luke Davis was one of our tight ends and linebackers. He did a great job all season, he was a team player with great leadership skills. Whyatt Beck was new to the team this year, played really well and showed great leadership but I’m really going to miss these seniors.”
In addition to what they brought to the team on the field, Finch said his seniors brought a lot to the table off the gridiron as well.
“One of the reasons they’re so successful is they love the weight room,” Finch said. “They love the weight room, they work all year long. I don’t have to get on them to get in the weight room. They want to work. They come to practice and work hard at practice and they’re a tight-knit group. That’s one of the reasons they’re so successful. These guys will be friends years from now just because of how close they are.”