TOLONO - Unity coach Scott Hamilton isn't ready to give opponents seven points before kickoff, but he might as well. For the sixth time in seven games this season the Rockets allowed their opponent to score first. And for the sixth time, Unity had the higher score when the game was over, 51-34 against Monticello on Friday.
"I don't know why that continues to happen like that, but it's becoming a bad habit to get into," Hamilton said. "We need to try to find a way to get past that. I don't know if that's something I'm doing."
After Tyler Lieb scored on a 17-yard run to put Monticello on top 7-0 in the first quarter, the Rockets turned to their go-to offensive weapon in quarterback Dylan Sturgeon.
The 200-pound senior, who ran for 286 yards and scored five touchdowns a week ago, ran for 225 yards and three more scores for the Rockets against Monticello. He also hit Austin Perry (three receptions, 28 yards) with an 18-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
The defense came up big, too, intercepting Monticello quarterback Ben Palla (24 for 40, 265 yards, three touchdowns) on three consecutive possessions. Two of the picks came courtesy of Taylor Black and the other by Seth Gooch. Gooch scored on a 53-yard run on the first play after his interception and also returned a kick 85 yards for a score.
"We knew one of these days we were going to bust in on the kickoff and we finally did," Gooch said. "Me and Dustin (Jolly) are taught to hit the wedge hard and when we see grass to run, and that's what I did."
The Rockets, who are ranked fourth in Class 3A, will be favored in their next two games against Shelbyville and Clinton, who had a combined record of 1-11 entering Week 7. Still, Unity feels like a team being overlooked in some circles.
"Our kids haven't gotten a lot of credit and it seems the credit is going everywhere else in the league and everywhere else in the area," Hamilton said. "Our kids are playing with a chip on their shoulder and hopefully they'll continue to do that."
The Sages got 114 yards on the ground from Lieb. Cale Huisinga (nine receptions, 83 yards) and Matt Palla (seven receptions, 89 yards) each caught a touchdown pass.