Rockcastle outlasts Bell in shootout

Published 9:23 am Wednesday, October 4, 2023

By Hayden Canady

Sports Writer

On most nights when a football team scores 38 points and their running back has 371 yards rushing, that’s plenty enough to hold off the opponent. That was not the case Friday night on Log Mountain where the host Bell County Bobcats put up impressive offensive numbers but could not hold off the Rockcastle County Rockets who handed the Bobcats their first defeat of the season and took command of the district race with a 40-38 victory.

It looked early on like both teams were going to score on every possession and it would be one of those high scoring games where the team with the ball last wins. Bell County won the coin toss and chose to receive but they were unable to corral the onside kick. With the early momentum on its side Rockcastle County took advantage and went on a scoring drive that was capped off by quarterback Tucker Warren, on a 23-yard scramble. The extra point attempt by Benjamin Brenda was good.

Bell County wasted very little time taking back control of the game. The offense made it look easy taking the ball and driving 55 yards on seven plays. Daniel Thomas scored his first touchdown of the night from 1 yard out to cap off the drive. Thomas also added the two-point conversion to make it 8-7 with 4:13 to go in the first.

Rockcastle’s quarterback struck again with 1:33 to go in the quarter but this time it was through the air. Warren threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Caleb Moore to give the Rockets the lead and they never trailed again from that point on. The kick failed this time, leaving the score 13-8.

Bell County got the ball in good field position the on the ensuing drive but didn’t capitalize on it as the Rockcastle defense was able to get the stop, making a tackle for a loss on fourth down on Bell County’s 37, setting them up with a short field. Warren and the Rockets took advantage when he found Christian Larkey across the middle for a 15-yard touchdown pass.

On Bell’s very next play from scrimmage, Thomas had an electrifying 61-yard touchdown run to bring the Bobcats closer. He then sprinted around the left end for the two-point conversion making the score 19-16 with 9:10 left to play in the half.

Both teams were finally able to get a couple of stops to close the half. Hayden Damron made two key sacks in the second quarter to help prevent the Rockets from stretching their halftime lead.

Warren made sure the Rockets got off to a good start in the second half as he led the offense down the field. He had a 26-yard touchdown run to open the second half scoring. Brenda added his second extra point of the night to make the lead 26-16 in favor of the Rockets.

On the following Bell County drive, Thomas put his vision on display when he made a nice cutback on a 48-yard touchdown run. Blake Burnett connected with Damron for the two-point conversion. The deficit was now only two points.

On the next drive, Warren once again put the Rockets on the scoreboard on the very first play from scrimmage with a 68 yard bomb to Moore down the left sideline. Brenda kicked another extra point to put the Rockets back ahead by nine.

Thomas continued the back and forth between the two stars on Bell’s next drive. He carried the ball 11 times for 60 yards on the drive and punched it in from one yard out to keep the Bobcats alive. After the two-point play failed, the score was 33-30 in favor of the Rockets. Warren wasn’t able to match on the Rockets’ next drive but he did have a 61 yard punt to pin Bell inside its own 5.

Bell County was able to drive the ball 80 yards to get out of the hole but the drive came up short when Rockcastle tackled Thomas on a fourth-and-seven situation. On what was a very close call, Thomas was marked just short of the first down and the Rockets took over possession inside their own territory.

Rockcastle got their final points when Warren scored a 1-yard touchdown on a quarterback sneak. Brenda’s extra point made the score 40-30 and that would be all the Rockets would need to seal the victory.

Bell’s final score came on a 13-yard rush from Thomas who broke tackles on the run willing his way into the end zone. Burnett added the two points to make the final score 40-38.

Most of Rockcastle’s statistics came on the arm and legs of Warren. He had 153 rushing yards on 20 carries with three touchdowns. He added 252 yards through the air and three touchdowns. He completed 15 of his 21 passes.

Warren and Bell’s Thomas accounted for nearly 800 yards of total offense Friday night in the longtime rivalry. Thomas had 371 yards rushing and five rushing touchdowns two two-point conversions to add to his state leading totals in both rushing and scoring. Rockcastle’s other stats weren’t available at the time of the story. For Bell, Burnett added two carries for 11 yards. Burnett also contributed three passing yards while going 2-5 passing. Hayden Canady and Hunter Everage had one reception each.

Bell County returns to action Friday at him against Knox Central. Rockcastle is open.