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Hall quarterback Taggart Venegas (No. 10) tries to escape Rockridge’s Noah Hamerlinck during the Red Devils’ 63-34 loss Friday in a Three Rivers Conference South Division game in Spring Valley. NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
Hall’s Jake Merkel (No. 23) defends a pass intended for Rockridge’s Dylan Peterson during the Red Devils’ 63-34 loss Friday in a Three Rivers Conference South Division game in Spring Valley. NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
Hall football coach Randy Tieman knew Rockridge was capable of the big play. The Red Devils prepared to prevent the big play.
However, preparing doesn’t necessarily lead to executing.
The Associated Press Class 3A No. 4-ranked Rockets burned the Red Devils for 13 plays of 15 yards or more en route to a 63-34 victory Friday night in a Three Rivers Conference South Division game at Richard Nesti Stadium in Spring Valley.
“I don’t know,” Tieman said about how the Rockets got so many big plays. “It was nothing we hadn’t worked against and thought was coming. We’ve seen that stuff. They love the big play. That’s what you have to stop them from. … It’s the story of what’s going on right now. We just have to play assignment football.”
The Hall defense had a strong start to the game as it held Rockridge to no gain on its first two plays.
However, things quickly unraveled for the Red Devils.
The Rockets’ next three plays went for 70, 81 and 83 yards and three touchdowns to give Rockridge a 21-0 lead with 4:35 left in the first quarter.
An interception returned to the Hall 15-yard line and a 5-yard touchdown run by Dalton McManus — his third score of the game — gave the Rockets a 27-0 lead with 2:22 left in the first quarter.
“We just always seem to want to put ourselves in a hole and we’re not a good enough team at this point to do that,” Tieman said. “We have to come out ready from the opening kickoff and play from then.”
The Red Devils were down but not out.
With a defender pulling on his jersey, Hall senior quarterback Taggart Venegas tossed a 25-yard touchdown pass to Zach Urbanski with 20.7 seconds left in the first.
A Rockridge fumble on the ensuring kickoff breathed more life into the Red Devils. Hall marched down to the 3-yard line but was stopped on fourth down.
The Red Devils missed that chance but created another when Rockridge got pushed back to 3-and-41 on several penalties.
The snap on the punt was bobbled and Hall’s Matt Briddick and Cole Elliott tackled Rockridge punter Cole Neneman for a 17-yard loss that gave the Red Devils the ball on the Rockets’ 13-yard line.
Hall capitalized when Jake Byczynski threw a 7-yard touchdown to Collin Aimone on a halfback pass on fourth down.
The Red Devils recovered another fumble on Rockridge’s next possession but wasted the chance when Venegas was intercepted.
The Rockets (5-0, 3-0 TRC South) then drove 70 yards and capped the drive with a 1-yard TD run by McManus with 26.6 seconds left in the first half for a 35-14 halftime lead.
Rockridge surprised Hall with an onside kick to start the second half and turned it into a 30-yard touchdown pass by Darren Southwell for a 42-14 lead.
Hall pulled within 14 at 42-28 on a 1-yard run by Venegas and a 4-yard scoring pass from Venegas to Aimone with 2:55 left in the third, but that’s as close as Hall came.
“I like the heart of the kids and the way they didn’t quit,” Tieman said. “We got down 27 points in the first quarter and we had a chance there to come out in the second half and cut it to one score.”
Venegas threw for 186 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 162 yards and a score for Hall (2-3, 0-2 TRC South).
Southwell threw for 329 yards and three TDs and ran for 177 yards and a pair of scores to lead a Rockridge offense that racked up 630 yards.