Tennessee high school football: Rockvale lands a playoff berth

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ROCKVALE – They didn’t want to wait any longer.

The Rockvale football team spent the first two years of existence battling records of 0-10 the inaugural season and 1-9 the following year.

So when the biggest game in program history was moved forward an hour due to impending bad weather, the Rockets were ready to go.

“We were tired of being pushed around, tired of being underestimated and counted,” said Rockvale senior lineman Brady Owen. “We were tired of being the underdogs.”

In a county full of football heavyweights, Rockvale’s persistence in answering the bell officially paid off on Friday night. The Rockets racked up 368 rushing yards and outlasted Blackman 50-45 to clinch the program’s first playoff spot.

“We really had to make our kids like this,” said Rockvale coach Rick Rice. “They didn’t come (three years ago) that way, but we helped them build that way. Everything we do is based on our physical condition. I can’t say that for the first two years, but we have to be that way to be successful. “

Rockvale (7-1, 3-1 Region 4-6A) flexed his muscles offensively, paving the way for a five-touchdown performance by fullback LaMarcus Nelson, who had 232 yards.

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“LaMarcus is a playmaker,” said Rockvale senior lineman CJ Perry. “I’m going to do a boulder and then I’ll see him run on the field. LaMarcus loves us and we love him. He’s very good at finding the hole, just like Logan Nowacki. He really stepped things up for this team.

Owen, Perry and Rice also praised offensive line coach Brian Guthrie, whose unit helped the offense score 30 or more points on four occasions, much of the meteoric rise of the team this season.

“Coach Gut is amazing,” said Perry. “He’s the best coach I’ve ever had. He’s very friendly to the players, he gets along with everyone and he made me the best player I can be.

“We’re just preaching the physique and breaking the will of the other team,” Guthrie said. “If we can do these things ahead of time to frustrate them and break their will, we feel like we’ve done what we need to do. “

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Blackman made an angry comeback attempt late. The Blaze reduced a 26-point deficit to 50-45 with three minutes remaining before Rockvale recovered an offensive kick and missed the time limit.

“I looked at the clock (in the third trimester) and I said, ‘My God, this thing is going too slow,’ Rice said, ‘but that’s the capacity that they have. They can score – boom – just like that. So I’m glad we had this big lead, otherwise we would probably have come off the end of the stick. “

Having come so close to securing a playoff berth, stepping out onto the court wouldn’t have been appropriate.

“I just think we were tired of being pushed around and it’s time for us to show,” Owen said. “Now we’re finally catching up. Everyone is surprised, but we knew it was coming.

Rockvale still has a shot at a regional title as the Rockets face Oakland in two weeks. Next week, the Rockets travel to Coffee County for an out-of-region contest. Blackman (3-5, 0-4), who was eliminated from the playoffs for the first time since 2008, then plays for Cookeville.


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