Late push fails to lift Rockets over Seneca Valley

Rockets fall back under .500 on the season
The Rockets gather on the sideline before the beginning of their game against Seneca Valley HS.
The Rockets gather on the sideline before the beginning of their game against Seneca Valley HS.
Jacob Swibel

The Rockets entered Friday’s contest against the Seneca Valley Screaming Eagles 2-2 on the season but failed to improve to a winning record with a 41-21 loss. 

The Rockets received the opening kickoff to start off their initial drive. Senior Quarterback Anthony Dixon Jr. led the team down to the Seneca Valley 20-yard line before the drive stalled. Instead of attempting a field goal, the Rockets could not convert on fourth and five and turned the ball over on downs. 

A few plays later, Screaming Eagles senior quarterback Elijah Frazier completed a 70-yard touchdown to take an early lead.

The Rockets’ offense could not match the effort of the Eagles and punted back to Seneca Valley.  However, the RM defense forced a punt which gave possession back to the Rockets. On the next drive, they marched down to the Seneca Valley 40-yard line but were forced to punt again. Seneca Valley took its turn driving down the field, but a holding call forced a punt on fourth down at the Rockets 30-yard line. 

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The Rockets’ meager offense in the first half took a turn for the worse when Dixon threw an interception with seven minutes left in the second quarter. Seneca Valley took advantage of the turnover and scored a toe-tap touchdown pass thrown by Frazier to go up 14-0.

RM needed a big play to revive their offense, and they got just that when Dixon completed a check-down pass to junior Damarean Frazier for 25 yards. The drive culminated in a Dixon touchdown pass to junior Khalil Wilson on a wheel route. Sophomore kicker Jarrett Roth missed the extra point and Seneca led 14-6 late in the second quarter.

A medical emergency on the Seneca Valley sideline caused both teams’ players to exit the field with 13 seconds left in the first half. The players returned to play these final seconds after the halftime show and the emergency was handled.

The Rockets’ defense started the second half by making a critical interception, but the offense was unable to capitalize and was forced to punt. The Screaming Eagles had a 20-yard punt return and ended their drive with a rushing touchdown to pad their lead.

The RM offense got off to another slow start after halftime. On third down and long, Dixon rolled out but was sacked for a loss on his own 20-yard line. The Rockets didn’t get much help when their punt only went for 20 yards. Seneca Valley capitalized on their excellent field position and scored a rushing touchdown. A missed extra point made the score 27-6, but there was still a lot of time left in the game.

Down three scores in the third quarter, Dixon needed to spark the offense and did so by completing a 50-yard touchdown pass to senior Kyle Morrison. This extra-point kick by Roth sailed through the uprights.

The Rockets then caught Seneca sleeping with an onside kick, which they recovered at midfield. Dixon completed a slant pass to Tavares Vaughan-Cooper, who ran 40 yards for a touchdown. Vaughan Cooper also caught a two-point conversion to make the score 27-21.

RM’s newfound momentum was short-lived. Seneca Valley senior wide receiver Mar’quail Bayton recovered his own muffed punt and then ran for a 98-yard touchdown.

On the next RM possession, they reached the Seneca Valley red zone on a 25-yard pass to Wilson. But on the same drive, a false start penalty on senior Tre Webster III changed a fourth down-and-goal from the 12-yard line into a longer fourth down that RM was unable to overcome. 

Late in the fourth quarter, RM fans saw a glimpse of hope when the Rockets recovered a fumbled snap by Seneca Valley down two scores late in the fourth quarter. 

On fourth and goal, Dixon completed a slant to Vaughan-Cooper and he was brought down right on the goal line. Many Rockets players signaled touchdown, along with their coaching staff. Yet after about a minute of deliberation, referees gave the ball to Seneca and left Rockets players and fans shocked. The Rockets were down two scores with 1:30 left in the game and Seneca had the ball. The Eagles ran the clock down and put the game out of reach for RM. 

This loss leaves the Rockets with a 2-3 record at the midway point of the season. They travel next to “the school in the woods” to face rival Rockville High School on Oct. 5 at 7:00 p.m.

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