On Friday night, the Person Rockets traveled to Northeast Guilford with a chance to do something they had not done in three years: make the state playoffs. Unfortunately for Rocket fans, that scenario didn’t materialize, as Person fell to the Rams by a score of 48-7.
In order to advance to the state playoffs, the Rockets needed a combination of things to happen. First and most importantly, the Rockets needed to beat the Rams. The Rams were 8-2 heading into this game, good enough for second in the 2A/3A Mid-State Athletic Conference. The Rockets had momentum behind them, however, as they were coming off wins in two straight games against McMichael and Rockingham County.
“Going into the game, we knew that we had to win in order to have a chance for the playoffs,” said head coach Joey Carroll.
Second, the Rockets needed either Western Alamance or Northern Guilford to lose. Both the Warriors and the Nighthawks were playing each other, and the result of the game would have helped Person.
The score of the Rockets game might have been lopsided, but the way that the Rockets played gave them a chance.
The Rams picked up 18 first downs compared to the Rockets’ 15. Person had a huge advantage in the passing game, as the Rockets gained 211 yards through the air compared to the Rams’ 55. Rocket quarterback Ridge Clayton led the passing attack with 207 yards of his own, while Ricky Carthen threw for three yards and Dequandre Newman threw for one yard.
Person ran several more plays on the offensive side of the ball compared to Northeast Guilford, as the Rockets hiked the ball 62 times compared to just 50 for the Rams. The Rockets outgained the Rams on kick return yardage, as they picked up 72 yards on six returns compared to 61 yards on two returns for the Rams.
In the second quarter, the Rockets made the game a one-possession contest, as they scored on a six-yard run by Newman. Sophomore kicker Orlando Gonzalez-Bello converted on the extra point, and the score was 14-7 Rams.
There were other categories, however, that the Rockets were outplayed in, most notably the ground game. After gaining 142 yards on the ground the week before against Rockingham County, the Rockets only picked up 45 yards rushing against the Rams, led by junior running back De’shaun Brown’s 36. The Rams gained 279 yards on the ground, with five of their six offensive touchdowns coming on the ground.
“We put everything we had out there,” said Carroll. “From the get go, it was not a good night for us on either side of the ball.”
The Rockets were hurt by penalties on Friday night, as they committed six penalties for 53 yards, compared to only four penalties and 30 yards for the Rams. The Rockets had to punt the ball four times, while the Rams only had to punt the ball away once.
The Rockets were outgained in time of possession, 27:35 to 20:25, and were only able to convert on four of their third downs, compared to seven-of-ten conversions for the Rams. On the four possessions the Rockets decided to go for it on fourth down, they were unable to convert, while the Rams went one-of-two on conversions.
The Rockets found the red zone twice, and scored a touchdown on one of their two red zone drives. The Rams, however, scored a touchdown on all four of its drives inside the Person 20.
After holding the Rams to 14 points in the first quarter and cutting the deficit to seven in the second quarter, seven points is as close as the Rockets would get, as the Rams scored 34 unanswered points to close out the game.
Carroll liked how the Rockets grew over the course of the season. Thought the Rockets lost their first four games of the season, they picked up their first win of the season against Morehead, which also happened to be their first conference game. The Rockets then won two more conference games, finishing 3-4 in the 2A/3A Mid-State Athletic Conference.
“When you look at the season as a whole, we got better every week. My players started taking accountability for their actions and each other. We started gelling on both sides of the ball in the second half of the season. Especially on the defense, our players started realizing that every play coaches draw up is designed to work and score. Our players were able to execute better than the opposition, a big reason why we won two out of our last three games.”
Up next for the Northeast Guilford Rams is a home playoff game against Parkwood High School on Friday night at 7:30 p.m., while the Rockets will start up offseason workouts. There is a state-mandated dead period for football until after the state championship games end, and then Carroll will get his players to work.
“We will spend December and January in the weight room, where we will look to add some size, strength, and flexibility,” said Carroll. “When it starts to warm up in the spring, we can get outside and run around. To prepare for games next year, we will get players to scrimmage each other in seven-on-seven games.”
Person closes the season with a 3-8 mark in Head Coach Joey Carroll’s first season at the helm.