STERLING –Rockridge first-year head coach Sam Graves knew coming into Saturday's game against Newman there were people who felt that Darren Southwell should have remained a fullback instead of switching to quarterback.
Some of those thoughts probably changed after the Rockets upset the second-ranked team in Class 2A, 21-9 at Roscoe Eades Stadium.
"I think there were people that thought he should be playing fullback," Graves said. "We saw today that he can be that threat in the passing game, and then when he tucks it under, he becomes that running back again."
Southwell gave the Rockets (1-0) the lead late in the first half with a spectacular 38-yard touchdown scramble, and then put the game away late in the fourth quarter with an 18-yard touchdown run.
In all, he had 96 rushing yards on 14 carries, and he had 120 passing yards. Dalton McManus added 115 rushing yards, as the Rockets' no huddle offense methodically ate chunks of time off the clock.
"We didn't block, and we didn't tackle," Newman coach Mike Papoccia said. "Not to take away from the quarterback who played great, and they ran their offense really well, but we didn't perform the way we have been practicing. It's disappointing."
Rockridge grabbed the lead on the first drive of the game, going 71 yards in 1 1/2 minutes. The big play was a 35-yard pass from Southwell to McManus. McManus capped the drive with a 16-yard touchdown run.
Newman drove to the 14-yard line on the next drive, but stalled out there.
"We knew they liked to go downhill like we did last year," Southwell said. "They are a very physical team, but our defense played as one unit."
The Comets pulled within a point on a 1-yard plunge by Dillan Heffelfinger with 11:12 left in the second quarter.
Southwell then made the play of the game on a first-down play at the Newman 38. Southwell was flushed from the pocket toward the Rockridge sideline. He eluded two tackles, before heading across the field. Three more missed tackles by Newman, and Southwell found open field all the way to the end zone.
"Football is a simple game of never giving up," Southwell said. "I wasn't going to give up on that play. Our team wasn't going to give up."
Newman answered by going to the air. A 40-yard pass and run from A.J. Sharp to Jake Snow put Newman on the Rockridge side of the field. A nice 18-yard catch by Shayne Allen put the Comets in field goal range. Brandon Ahlgrim took advantage, hitting a 30-yard attempt as time expired in the half.
"Those were a huge three points," Papoccia said. "We were able to move the ball in less than a minute. We thought that would turn it around."
Sharp finished with 84 yards passing. Elliot Jensen had 41 yards on the ground. The Comets were held to 184 total yards.
Brandon Neisewander picked off Southwell on the Rockets' first drive of the second half. The Comets gave the ball right back, fumbling the ball away on the second play of the ensuing drive.
"That was a huge play in the game," Papoccia said. "We got momentum, and we blocked the play perfectly. We just dropped the ball."