Rockets blast past Cougars, prepare for Rams

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Person High School’s football game last Friday night welcomed the Rockingham County Cougars for Senior Night. All seniors for football, the cheer and drill teams, and the band were recognized before the 7:30 p.m. kickoff. The Rockets beat the Cougars, 27-9, behind a balanced 30-play attack in which the Rockets threw and ran the ball 15 times apiece.

In the game, the Rockets gave their seniors and fans plenty to cheer about. De’shaun Brown, the junior who normally plays inside linebacker, led the ground game as he rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown on the night.

“Offensively, you’ve always got to be able to run the football,” said Carroll. “It’s always about numbers in the box. With six men in the box, you should be able to run the football. You have to win some one-on-ones in order to be able to do it.”

Ridge Clayton, the Rocket quarterback, led the passing attack, as he threw for 225 yards and three touchdowns. Clayton found wide receiver Trey Lunsford for two scores, and wide receiver Dequandre Newman for another. Lunsford led the way in the receiving game, as he recorded 113 yards to go along with those two scores, and Newman converted on his lone catch for the 33-yard touchdown.

“Obviously, our passing game, we want to try and get our guys in situations that they can win one-on-ones and that kind of stuff,” said Carroll. Lunsford was winning his one-on-one battles all night long, as he got behind the Cougar defense multiple times.

The offense was there for the Rockets, as they put up 27 points on the night, but it was not consistent throughout the game. The Rockets scored 13 points in the first quarter, and did not score again until Clayton’s third quarter touchdown pass to Newman. The Cougars went on a little run of their own going into halftime, as they scored twice in the final 9:47 of the first half on a touchdown and a time-expiring field goal to make the score 14-9.

“At halftime, the big thing we talked about was just making adjustments,” said Carroll. “We made a few adjustments in our run game offensively, and defensively I told the guys to just settle down, just keep doing what they’re doing, watch the short stuff, watch the go routes off the short stuff. And really, tonight at halftime was just get back to what we do. Let’s refocus. Let’s finish this game the way we started the third quarter.”

Carroll’s halftime speech worked, as the Rockets scored 13 more points in the second half while not allowing a single point defensively. Carroll was impressed with how his team responded to the second quarter adversity, especially on the defensive side.

“I think really just defensively, being able to stymie what they were trying to do,” said Carroll. “This was a quick game early, we made a few adjustments there, and they weren’t able to keep doing that. Just really their inability to run the ball. They hit us with some quarterback draws, some empty stuff, but really their inability in these conditions to run the football was big. We knew they had to throw it.”

The Rocket defense took advantage of this, as they limited the Cougars to 119 yards passing on the night and an interception.

Even though PHS Athletic Director and Assistant Football Coach Jeremy Clayton had been mowing the field and painting the lines all week, the field was ruined by the rain that came through Roxboro last week.

“Sometimes, you’ve got to look at field conditions and those type of things, and you’ve got to adjust your game plan,” said Carroll. “I would say at halftime, we did a little bit. We came in thinking that we are going to do what we do. We like to throw the football. We’re still going to throw it for where our athletes can make plays, and they did just that.”

Last Friday was also the last home game of Coach Carroll’s inaugural season as head football coach of Person High School, and he wanted to make sure that his seniors gave Rocket fans something to cheer about one last time.

“We talked pregame about sending these seniors out on their senior night the right way, and I feel like the fight was there, the guys wanted to do that for their seniors, and I couldn’t be more proud of them,” said Carroll.

The Rockets will look to continue their winning streak on Friday against Northeast Guilford, who is 9-2 (5-1), putting them at second place in the 2A/3A Mid-State Conference.

“Our guys know that it’s a good football team, and that we have an outside chance of getting into the playoffs,” said Carroll. “In order to do that, we have to win. We’re motivated, we’re ready to go. I just think the focus will be there this week in practice, and I look forward to that.”

Going into Friday’s game against the Rams, Carroll felt pretty good about his team being able to continue playing good football.

“We want to continue building upon our foundation. We’ve played better football as the year has gone on. We’ve continued to do that. In the meantime, have some fun, and let’s take a shot at making the playoffs.”

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