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In what can be best described as a good old-fashioned slugfest, the Rockwood Tigers pounced on the Grace Christian Academy Rams for a 23-21 win Friday night at Civitan Field.
“It was a great win for us tonight and it puts us right back in the thick of things with the district,” said an ecstatic Rockwood head coach John Webb.
In what turned out to be a seesaw affair, Grace got the ball first and marched 69 yards in six plays to score on a 55-yard Parker Shelton to Michael McCoy touchdown strike.
The PAT was good as the Rams held a 7-0 with 9:26 to go in the opening quarter.
Both teams traded punts before Rockwood punted then Grace rolled the dice and gambled on fourth down inside their own 20. The gamble failed as the Tigers defense stood strong and took over in great field position.
Two plays later, Lucas Jolley found Hayden Freels for a 10-yard touchdown strike that capped an 18-yard drive.
Jared Breazeale's PAT was good, making the score tied at 7-7 with 2:32 left in the opening quarter.
After a pivotal interception by Rockwood's Jared Breazeale, the Tigers were forced to punt again as the Rams were deep in Tiger territory as the first quarter came to a close with the score tied at 7-7.
But the second quarter would see the Rams cap off a 10-play, 70-yard drive with a one yard touchdown plunge by Will McKamey.
The extra point was no good, making the score 13-7 with 8:33 to go in the half.
After a Rockwood punt, Grace got the ball in Rockwood territory before being thwarted by another Rockwood interception, this time with Collin Smith getting the pick.
Rockwood then marched 33 yards in 13 plays to score on a 21-yard field goal by Breazeale that made the score 13-10 with 2.7 seconds left in the half.
After both teams spent their first two series of the third quarter trading punts, Rockwood only took four plays to cover 49 yards and score when Jolley found Brendan Kirkland for the five-yard touchdown strike.
Breazeale's PAT split the uprights, giving the Tigers a 17-13 lead with 11.7 seconds left in the third quarter.
Grace would score a touchdown on the final play of the third quarter on a Jared Carlton 56-yard touchdown run.
The Shelton to Jacob Belcher two-point conversion was good, making the score 21-17 with the third quarter at its conclusion.
Rockwood, however, would not be denied as the Tigers drove 59 yards in five plays to score when Jolley again found Kirkland for another five-yard touchdown pass.
Breazeale's PAT was no good, leaving Rockwood with a tenuous 23-21 lead with 9:34 left in the game.
Grace got inside the Rockwood 20 on the next drive, but failed to convert on fourth down.
Rockwood nearly had a disaster on their next drive when Grace's Jake Minga had his hands on what appeared to be a certain interception, but in an excellent show of awareness, Josh Boles literally snatched victory from the potential jaws of defeat by grabbing the ball and picking up a huge completion for the Tigers.
Rockwood was eventually forced to punt, giving Grace one last stab at the end zone, but Freels came up with the two biggest sacks of his Rockwood career to seal the win for the Tigers.
“We knew it was going to be tough to run on Grace. We tried it in the first half and it didn't work, so we let Lucas pass in the second half and that helped us get the win,” Webb said.
Grace beat Rockwood through the air, 155-106, and on the ground, 169-116, to get the 324-222 edge in total yardage.
Jolley (10-20, 106 yards, 3 TDs) led the Tigers in passing with Everett Campbell (14-42) and Boles (1-35) as the leading rushers while Kirkland (4-59-2 TDs) and Boles (2-31) leading the Tigers receivers.
Freels (6 tackles, 3 TFLs, 2 sacks), Dillon Deardorff (6 tackles) and Jared Breazeale (6 tackles, 1 INT) led the Tiger defense.
Grace was led in passing by Shelton (4-11, 116 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs) with Carlton (10-107-1 TD) leading the Rams rushing attack.
Next up for Rockwood is another tough match-up as the Tigers host Wartburg (5-1) Friday night.
“We have to work on everything when it comes to next week because we have a tough test against Wartburg,” Webb said. “I don't know a whole lot about them yet, but we have to go to the film and get ready for them.”