BELLAIRE - The St. John Fighting Irish looked to gain their second victory of the 2012 campaign after they stole a late one in Week 1 at Wheeling Island Stadium.
Saturday proved to come down to the second half, as well, only not as favorable for the Green-and-White when they played host to Conotton Valley. The Rockets knocked off the Fighting Irish, 34-21.
"We were there in first half making plays." first-year Irish coach Jason Merryman said.
To start things off, both teams swapped 3-and-outs before DJ Shoemaker picked off a Colton Cottis pass on the opening play of the Rockets' second drive. The Irish needed 10 plays to put the first points on the board, with the drive being capped off by an Alex Francis reception from Shoemaker on a jump ball in the left corner of the end zone. Dario Paolina's PAT was good for a 7-0 lead.
Conotton Valley made its first marks on the board early in the second quarter with a 9-play, 44-yard scoring drive. Jett Masters, the Rockets' senior running back, reached the end zone from five yards out. Brandon Bailey's PAT would fall short, leaving the visitors on the short end of a 7-6 count.
On the next St John drive, it moved the ball from its own 19 down to the Conotton 35 before Shoemaker was picked off by Taylor Bowdish, who scampered 76 yards back the other way for the score.
This time Bailey's PAT split the uprights.
On the ensuing kickoff, Alex Francis would take the kickoff back the other way for a 74-yard return before being forced out of bounds on the Rockets 7. The Green would need several attempts to finish the drive. After a false start penalty, Francis stepped up again from three yards out on a wide receiver sweep, busting in on 4th-and-goal. Paolina's PAT left the score at 14-13 SJC at halftime.
In the third quarter, Conotton would answer with 8:09 left, as Tommy Rodriguez snagged a Cottis pass from five yards out. Bailey's PAT was good.
Just into the fourth quarter, Bowdish took a Cottis handoff and stumbled up the field causing a hand full of Fighting Irish defenders to miss, going 30 yards for the score. Bailey's PAT was successful, extending the Rockets lead to 27-14 with 11:51 ticks left in the game.
"Defensively, we just had some breakdowns,'' Merryman said. "We didn't make the tackles when we needed to."
Shoemaker would re-inforce his coaches words just 21 ticks later as he broke free, scrambling for 45 yards to close the margin to one possession at 27-21.
That was as close of a comeback as SJC could muster switching possessions on punts the next two drives. The last Irish drive was halted on loss of downs. Shoemaker would drop back looking in the open space for a receiver as his offensive line was split, causing him to scramble from pressure. He would get a throw off as he was hit with Jacob Hoover running under the pass for a loss of three yards, turning the ball over for the final time.