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By GOOSE LINDSAY
Rockwood football is all about running the ball and that's just what the Tigers did Friday night as John Webb's squad piled up 338 yards rushing in rolling to a 28-14 victory over Hampton in the quarterfinal round of the TSSAA Class AA playoffs.
"It's a great feeling to still be playing right now," Tiger head coach John Webb said following Friday's victory. "These guys are amazing; they simply refuse to lose and they're playing their best football of the season right now."
"Oh this is really sweet," Tiger FB Jeff Inman added. "A lot of people didn't think we could do this, but we knew if we came out and played hard that we could do it."
Inman's performance Friday was typical of why the Tigers are still playing. Inman rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries, but he did most of his damage after hurting his shoulder late in the first quarter. Inman spent the rest of the night toughing-it-out in leading the way for the Tigers.
"Jeff and a lot of other guys on this team are warriors," Webb said. "There's a lot of fight in these guys. They play hard and don't quit."
"Nothing was going to keep me out," Inman added. "Our trainers looked at it and said I had a strain, but I would be okay. They put a shock protector on it and I went about my business."
Inman was one of three Tiger backs to rush for more than 100 yards on the evening as Davey Templeton carried the ball 19 times for 114 yards while Travis Beasley added a career-high 108 yards on only eight carries.
"Our offensive line deserves the credit," Inman said. "Jeromy Hagermaker, Nate Treadway, Ian Walls, Storm Beeler, Corey Shelton, Gunnar Mitchell and all those guys up front are amazing. We wouldn't get a yard without them."
"We're a team and we do it together, but it's good blocking for a guy like Jeff that you know if you miss somebody that he'll just run them over," lineman Nate Treadway added.
Things didn't start great for Rockwood, however, as Hampton took the opening kickoff and drove 72 yards in seven plays with big FB Logan Andrews scoring on a one yard run to give the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead with 8:58 left in the first quarter.
Rockwood answered quickly with a seven-play scoring drive of their own. The Tigers started with six straight runs and play No. 7 looked like a run until Templeton took what appeared to be a toss sweep and fired a 38-yard touchdown pass to Chris Harness.
Rockwood's PAT was no good, leaving the score 7-6 with 6:12 left in the first period.
Although Rockwood trailed, their opening drive gave them a lot of confidence that they could win on the road.
"We knew on that first drive that we had 'em," Rockwood lineman Ian Walls said. "We were able to push them off the ball and we knew we'd be able to run it all night."
Walls was right as Rockwood controlled the line up front and scored again on each of their next two possessions to take a 21-7 lead midway through the second quarter.
Rockwood took the lead for good with an eight-play, 76-yard scoring drive that was capped with an Inman three-yard run with 30.5 seconds left in the first quarter.
Inman also added the two-point conversion that made the score 14-7.
Rockwood's next drive was a thing of beauty as the Tigers marched 94 yards in eight plays. A defensive pass interference penalty jump started the drive on third-and-10 from the six, but the rest of the drive was all runs with a 41-yard run from Templeton setting the stage for a nine-yard scoring run from Collin Smith.
Jared Breazeale added the PAT to make the score 21-7 with 6:36 left in the half.
Hampton (10-2), however, showed the grit that allowed them to reach the state's final four in three of the last four years as the Bulldogs ended the half with a 10-play, 71-yard scoring drive capped with a nine-yard run from Brett Price that made the score 21-14 with 1:45 left until intermission.
The momentum stayed in Hampton's corner early in the second half when the Tigers fumbled the ball away on the second play of the third period.
Rockwood's defense, however, kept the momentum from completely swinging then the Tiger offensive line started taking control of the contest once again. The Tigers put together a 16-play, 69-yard drive that didn't end in points, but it did flip the field and that paid off on Rockwood's next possession.
After a three-and-out followed by a short punt, the Tigers struck quickly as three plays later Inman capped a 45-yard drive with a one yard dive into the end zone.
Breazeale's PAT gave the Tigers a 28-14 lead with 11:20 left in the contest.
Beasley set up the score with a 39-yard run.
After that it was up to Rockwood's defense and they didn't disappoint as Hampton's final three drive of the night ended on downs.
While Rockwood was busy getting three backs 100 yards on the ground, the Tigers defense did a good job of containing Hampton's duo of Price and Adam Taylor. The duo had each rushed for more than 1,100 yards on the season, but they had just 64 yards combined on 19 carries against Rockwood.
As a team, Hampton amassed 218 yards offense on 48 plays compared to Rockwood rolling up 373 yards on 55 snaps.
Rockwood (11-2) now turns its attention to Friday's semifinals and a match-up with Boyd-Buchanan (10-1).
"We're going to do the same stuff as always," Walls said. "We're going to watch film, study and practice hard."
"We've got a tough week ahead," Webb said. "It's Thanksgiving week and that's important, but what we're doing is important too."
"We'll just have to practice Thursday morning and eat that afternoon," Walls added.
Rushing- Inman 20-115 with 2 TDs, Templeton 19-114, Beasley 8-108, Smith 1-9 with 1 TD, Jolley 2-1, Team 1-(-9).
Passing- Templeton 1-1 for 21 yards with 1 TD, Jolley 1-2 for -3 yards, Harness 0-1.
Receiving- Beasley 1-(-3), Harness 1-38 with 1 TD.