ROSE HILL - Coach Roger Robben knew it was wise not to kick to Rose Hill's returners on special teams, and he told the Orioles precisely that before Friday night's game.
The Orioles didn't execute quite the way they needed to, though, and Rose Hill took advantage. Colton Mays returned punts of 45 and 73 yards for touchdowns, including the first play Rose Hill touched the ball, on way to a 41-14 Rockets victory.
"I know that us covering is not to our advantage. What we game-planned to do was not kick to them," Robben said. "That didn't happen. So in turn, we gave them an opportunity to use their advantage on us, which is their speed and athleticism."
With the loss, Augusta (1-6, 0-1 in Districts) likely is in a must-win game next week when it hosts Trinity Academy if it wants a chance to make the playoffs. Trinity lost to Collegiate 28-17 in the District's other matchup.
Mays actually returned three punts for scores, but one was called back on a blocking penalty. There was a call that appeared to have been missed on the opening punt, however.
Rose Hill got another three-and-out on Augusta's second possession, then quickly marched 54 yards down the field on eight plays before Rockets quarterback TJ Slade scored on a three-yard QB keeper.
Garrett Forsberg was a one-man wrecking crew for Rose Hill. Forsberg rushed for 184 yards on 21 carries as the Orioles simply could not bring him down on first contact. He finished with eight rushes of 10 or more yards. Forsberg also broke up several Oriole plays from his linebacker position on defense.
"He's a very good running back," Robben said of Forsberg. "I told that to their offensive coordinator before the game. He's the one to me that really stands out on their team that makes a difference. He plays hard...he's a heck of a player."
After Mays' second punt-return touchdown put Rose Hill ahead 27-0, it seemed the route was on. But Tristan Finch made a spectacular run where he fooled a Rose Hill defender by keeping the ball on an option play, then broke a tackle for a 69-yard scoring burst. After a penalty on the extra point by the Rockets, Trae Goken punched in the 2-pt conversion.
In the second half, the Orioles' defense picked up its play in all areas. The front seven crashed the line and filled gaps better to slow down the run game. Connor Hurst baited Slade to make an interception on a route Rose Hill tried to run earlier on its opening series of the second half.
On the ensuing possession, Nate Johnson jumped up for a big, 22-yard catch that sparked a long drive. Goken had a nine-yard burst that set up a 17-yard scamper by Finch on the next play. The score pulled the Orioles to 34-14, but that was as close as they got.
Page 2 of 2 - Freshman Gannon Marcotte led the Orioles with 12 tackles and also recovered a Rose Hill fumble underneath a scrum. Hurst had 11 tackles. Brett Hamilton had nine. Marcotte and Willis were in together for a sack. Dakota Thompson had a sack for the Orioles, as well.