It was a history-making matchup in a number of way as Shelbyville Central held on to claim a 23-21 victory over visiting Rockvale in opening round action of the TSSAA Class 6A State Playoffs at the Eagles Nest on Friday night.
The game was notable in a number of ways.
It was the first playoff game win for the Golden Eagles (5-6) in Class 6A, the first playoff win at Shelbyville Central for coach Josh Puckett and it was the first-ever playoff game for Rockvale.
“This season hasn’t gone every way we wanted it to go and that’s frustrating, but to get to host a playoff game is a blessing,” Shelbyville Central coach Josh Puckett said. “There are only 16 teams in each classification that gets to host a playoff game and we were one of them and then to get the win and advance makes it even better.”
Senior Laquan Young had a stellar game, scoring all three Golden Eagle touchdowns, covering an on-side kick while excelling on defense as well.
Shelbyville Central was in total control early, scoring two touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions in the first half.
Young hauled in a 9-yard pass from Kade Cunningham for the first score of the game midway through the second half. Cunningham ran for the two-pointer after and the 8-0 lead.
A 30-yard run by Young followed by Cunningham running for the two-point conversion put the Eagles up 16-0.
That score was set up after freshman kicker Ben Betzetberger executed a perfect on-side kick that was recovered by Young.
“We had been working on that on-side kick all week and I’m really proud of our freshman kicker Ben Betzetberger for going out and executing that really, really well,” Puckett said.
“We did some good things early on offense and we had a number of great opportunities to put the game away early but we just didn’t do it. Hat’s off to Rockvale and Coach (Rick) Rice. He’s an old Class 1A coach like me. He's a great guy and a very hard worker. His teams have a good culture and they never quit.”
Shelbyville Central added a touchdown on the opening possession of the season half when Young scored on a 12-yard run and with the kick after the Eagles held a 23-0 advantage.
The Rockets (7-4) had three possessions in the second half and scored a touchdown on each one.
Anthony Thiphavong hauled in a 31-yard pass from Jalen Claybrooks, with Jalen Murray catching the two-point conversion from Branic Swain to cut the lead to 23-8 at the 2:54 mark of the third quarter.
Thiphavong went the distance on a 80-yard pass from Logan Nowacki midway through the fourth quarter and Eban Brasier's kick after cut the lead to 23-14.
Lamarcus Nelson caught a 14-yard pass from Nowacki with six seconds left to play to cut the lead to two points.
An interesting and unusual penalty was then called on the two-point effort by the Rockets.
While the quarterback stepped away and looked toward his sideline at his coaches, Rockville snapped the ball to run a play, but the officials stopped the play and threw a flag for “unsportsmanlike due to deception” and backed the ball up15 yards.
A pass attempt then failed on the 2-point conversion.
Young finished the game with 132 yards rushing on 30 carries.
He also caught two passes for 16 yards.
Cunningham rushed for 101 yards on 17 attempts and completed 11-of-20 passes totaling 109 yards.
Cam Grogan added seven catches for 78 yards for the Eagle offense.
Shelbyville Central’s defense held Rockvale to only 36 yards on the ground.
The Eagles travel to state powerhouse and top seed Oakland on Friday evening at 7.
Rockvale 0 0 8 13 — 21
Shelbyville Central 0 16 7 0 — 23
SC – Laquan Young 9 pass from Kade Cunningham (Cunningham run), 8:39.
SC – Young 30 run (Cunningham run), 8:07.
SC – Young 12 run (Ben Betzetberger kick), 6:16.
R – Anthony Thiphavong 31 pass from Jalen Claybrooks (Jalen Murray pass from Branic Swain), 2:54.
R – Thiphavong 80 pass from Logan Nowacki (Eban Brasier kick), 8:44.
R – Lamarcus Nelson 14 pass from Nowacki (pass failed), 0:06.
THE YARD STICK
Passing Yards 327 109
Rushing Yards 36 243
Total Yards 363 352
First Downs 14 24 Penalties-Yards 9-73 8-60
Turnovers 2 2
Returns-Yards 3-57 3-38
Time of Possession 14:26 33:34