It was the Fayetteville-Perry Rockets’ strength prevailing over the speed of Hillcrest in week four on the gridiron. The Rockets were able to pull off an exciting 58-56 win over the visiting football squad of Hillcrest on Sept. 14, upping their overall record to 4-0 on the season.
It was the closest game of the season so far for the Rockets, a tight battle that put their composure to the test.
“It was incredible watching how our boys handled the adversity and kept battling for each other. I couldn’t have been more proud of all of them for their effort,” Fayetteville head football coach Kevin Finch said of his Rockets following their week four win. “Hillcrest came in with a sound game plan and really put us in some difficult situations, but our boys kept responding. Hillcrest had some excellent speed and this type of game made us better moving forward.”
A big return by Fayetteville junior Nathan Kingus on the opening kick-off got the Rocket offense off to a good start at the Hillcrest 35-yard line, and the Rockets marched down the field with some big runs by sophomore Hunter Jester. Jester used some powerful blocking by the Rocket offensive line to cap off the drive with a three-yard touchdown run with 9:19 to go in the first period. Jester also carried for the two-point conversion that followed, giving the Rockets an early 8-0 lead.
Hillcrest was quick to show off their speed, and their first kick-off return would result in a touchdown of around 70 yards. Their attempt at the two-point conversion failed, and the Rocket lead was cut to 8-6 with 9:07 to go in the first quarter.
The Rockets relied on Jester runs and passes by senior quarterback CJ McCulley to senior wide receiver Bowen Doane to make it to the Hillcrest 17-yard line, but it was a fumble by Fayetteville that was picked up by Hillcrest and taken 80 yards for a touchdown. Following a successful two-point conversion, Hillcrest led 14-8 with 3:55 to go in the first quarter.
The Rockets would strike again before the first quarter came to an end, as Doane took a pass from McCulley for a 76-yard touchdown. The Rockets were unsuccessful on their attempt at the two-point conversion, and the two teams were tied at 14 with just over two minutes to go in the first period.
Hillcrest reached pay dirt once again before the first quarter reached an end, and entering the second period it was the Rockets trailing 20-14.
Just over a minute into the second quarter, the Rockets topped off a drive with a short touchdown run by senior Mark Wolfer. With a successful two-point conversion carry by Jester, the Rockets took a 22-20 lead.
It was a pass that resulted in a 65-yard touchdown for Hillcrest with 10:45 to go in the second quarter, leaving the Rockets trailing 28-22.
Following a first-down carry by Wolfer, it was Jester rushing for a five-yard touchdown with 4:44 to go in the second quarter to tie the game at 28.
The Rockets were able to break the knot before halftime break with Doane rising high for a 16-yard touchdown reception to put the Rockets on top 34-28.
The Hillcrest offense responded by capping off a quick drive with a 31-yard touchdown pass, followed by a successful two-point conversion to take a 36-34 lead over the Rockets.
The Rockets took advantage of the final minute of the first half on a drive that included a one-handed catch by junior wide receiver Christopher Murphy for a 25-yard gain. The Rockets capped off their final drive of the first half with a 12-yard touchdown pass from McCulley to Doane with 37.4 seconds left on the clock. Wolfer carried for the two-point conversion that followed, and the Rockets headed into halftime break with a 42-36 lead.
Both teams managed to reach pay dirt once in the third quarter with the Rockets leading 50-44 entering the final frame. Hillcrest was able to score twice in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Rockets 12-8 in the period, but the Rockets were able to hold on for the narrow two-point victory to remain unbeaten on the season at 4-0.
The Rockets racked up a total of 571 yards of offense in Friday’s win with 392 yards coming from their rushing game and 179 yards from their air attack.
McCulley completed nine passes for 179 yards, throwing for three touchdowns.
Jester led Rocket rushers with an impressive 271 yards off 42 carries with five touchdowns.
Wolfer ran for 121 yards off 21 carries with one touchdown.
Doane pulled down seven receptions for a total of 148 yards with three touchdowns.
Murphy hauled in two passes for 31 receiving yards.
On defense, Fayetteville junior Dalton Novak racked up seven tackles with three sacks while Doane, Wolfer, Kurtis Friedhof, and Aiden Dye all recorded five tackles each.
“I was glad that we were able to get more balance between our run and pass game. Defensively, the boys seemed to make a big play every time one was needed,” said Finch.
The Rockets are scheduled for a non-league road game against Batavia, Sept. 21.