Tears of joy — With Drew Brown (right) looking on, Dresden assistant coach Chad Hodge sheds tears of joy while being hugged by DJ Ellis after the Lions’ 21-7 playoff win Friday night. Photo by Stephanie Sturgis
“Run, Forrest, run!” became an oft-repeated movie quote from the 1994 hit movie Forrest Gump.
The Dresden Lions used their staunch defense to shut down the Forrest Rockets’ run game in winning their Class 2A first round playoff game 21-7 Friday night on their Rotary Field.
“The defense just keeps stepping up and keeps surprising people and keeps doing what they have to do. They made some adjustments, looked really good tonight,” elated Dresden head coach Scott Hewett said. “Forcing them into two turnovers was big too.”
Dresden limited Forrest to 65 rushing yards on 30 carries. The Rockets’ top running back — Zach Ray — came into the contest with 1,633 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground on 282 carries. The Lions limited Ray well below his average of 163 yards per game to just 72 yards on 20 carries and kept him out of the end zone.
With the Lions’ first playoff win since a 19-0 first-round triumph over St. Benedict in 1995, Dresden advances to take on the host Riverside Panthers at 7 on Friday night in Decaturville. The Panthers had a first-round bye and will be looking to avenge their 20-14 loss to DHS in Week 7.
It was the Rockets who took the game’s first lead. On its second possession of the game, Forrest put together a 68-yard, eight-play drive. Ray picked up 30 yards on five carries. A big play in the march was a 31-yard completion from quarterback Dane Leonard to Zach Horvath that moved the ball to the DHS 3. Leonard faked a pitch to Ray and carried the ball into the end zone. Angel Reyes booted the PAT to put the Forrest lead at 7-0 with 4:44 left in the first quarter.
The Lions appeared to be on the verge of evening the score on the ensuing drive. Dresden started at its own 27 and moved to the Forrest 13 by mixing carries by running back Devin Raymer and quarterback Dale Hutcherson with screen passes. A 22-yard completion to Raymer was the biggest gain of the drive. Once at the 13, Hutcherson sandwiched incompletions around a shovel pass to Raymer that lost a yard. On fourth down, Hutcherson’s pass to Tyler McPeak was intercepted by Dakota Zimmerman at the 4 when the DHS tight end slipped coming back for the ball.
Then the Lion defense began to roar with big stops by Killian Davis, Drew Brown, Jacob Huestis and DJ Ellis to force a punt. The kick was returned 12 yards by Daniel Harris to the Forrest 30-yard line.
Starting with the short field, the Lions again mixed runs with passes to Gatlin Hatchel and McPeak. Harris took a handoff around the left end and covered the final three yards with a dive over the goal line. Colin Kanehl split the uprights with his kick to knot the score at 7-all with 5:37 remaining in the first half.
On its next drive, Forrest picked up a first down before a fumbled pitch cost the Rockets six yards and resulted in a punt.
Pinned at their own 18 with 1:57 to play in the half, the Lions put together a perfect two-minute drill with every play through the air. Hutcherson hit on 10-of-13 passes in the drive to cover all 82 yards. The Lions also overcame a holding penalty in the march. Using bubble screens near the sideline, Dresden’s Harris, Kanehl, Hatchel and McPeak all made catches. The Lions also used all three timeouts before McPeak caught the five-yard TD pass. Kanehl’s kick boosted the Dresden lead to 14-7 with only 8 seconds left in the half.
The two-minute drive was even more impressive considering the Lions botched just such a march in their loss to Huntingdon.
“We needed something like that. The main thing we did that we hadn’t been doing was getting the ball and getting out of bounds to get the clock stopped. We used the clock real well,” Hewett noted.
The Lions took advantage of the first Forrest turnover — a fumbled handoff to end their first drive of the third. Dresden started at the FHS 45 and used nine plays to go the distance. Hutcherson ran the final 10 yards, fighting his way to the end zone. Kanehl’s PAT pushed the Dresden lead to 21-7 with 2:21 to play in the third.
A fumbled Lion snap at the DHS 32 gave Forrest life early in the fourth, but the Lion defense held, forcing a fourth-down incompletion from the 2.
The last Rocket drive ended when Brandon Elliott intercepted Leonard’s final pass in the end zone with 2:46 remaining in the Lions’ 21-7 victory.
Forrest 7 0 0 0 — 7 Dresden 0 14 7 0 — 21
FHS — Dane Leonard 3-yard run, (Angel Reyes kick), 4:44.
DHS — Daniel Harris 3-yard run, (Colin Kanehl kick), 5:37.
DHS — Tyler McPeak 5-yard pass from Dale Hutcherson, (Kanehl kick), 00:08.
DHS — Hutcherson 10-yard run, (Kanehl kick), 2:21.
First Downs 10 20
Rushes-yards 30-65 34-106
Passing yards 113 176
Comp-Att-Int 10-15-1 20-33-1
Punts 4-26.3 2-30
Fumbles-Lost 4-1 3-1
Penalties-yards 2-15 2-15
Rushing — Forrest, Zach Ray 20-72, Zach Horvath 1-4, Dane Leonard 6-2, Richie Smith 1-1, Team 2-(-14); Dresden, Dale Hutcherson 11-47, Daniel Harris 4-30, Devin Raymer 13-22, Colin Kanehl 2-5, Eric VanDyke 1-2, Team 3-0.
Passing — Forrest, Leonard 10-15-1 — 113; Dresden, Hutcherson 20-33-1 — 176.
Receiving — Forrest, Horvath 4-64, Ray 3-34, Smith 2-11, Paten Pruitt 1-4; Dresden, Kanehl 5-54, Gatlin Hatchel 6-50, Harris 5-37, Raymer 221, Tyler McPeak 2-14.
Records — Forrest 6-5, Dresden 9-2.
Next Game — Dresden will travel to play Riverside with kickoff at 7 on Friday night. Forrest’s season is over.