How’s this for a first half stat line?
Five catches, 148 yards, four touchdowns.
Six PAT kicks.
One punt for 26 yards.
C.J. Rocci put up those numbers Friday night in West Carteret’s 48-13 victory over East Carteret in the 55th annual Mullet Bucket.
“I was pretty exhausted,” he said.
To call it a career night by the junior would be an understatement.
He didn’t touch the ball in middle school, playing on the line.
As a sophomore, he had 21 yards on four carries and shared kicking duties, registering two field goals and 10 extra points. He also punted twice.
Although he didn’t post many numbers last year, he was still busy, playing running back with the junior varsity on Thursday nights and then suiting up for the varsity on Fridays.
In the season opener, he had 14 yards on three carries and caught one pass for 3 yards in a 49-7 loss to New Hanover.
“Overall, I was just shocked, honestly,” Rocci said of the numbers he put up in the first half in the second game of the season. “My teammates were hyped at halftime. They didn’t expect it, for sure.”
It started midway through the first quarter.
He ran an out pattern, caught the ball from Kel Jones, turned and ran down the right sideline before slicing inside the right orange cone of the end zone on a 14-yard score to register his first varsity touchdown. The same thing happened again on a 21-yard score early in the second quarter and then on a 12-yard touchdown catch just three minutes later.
“It was just a simple out pattern,” Rocci said. “By the third one, I knew. When it was called, I already knew they weren’t going to cover me.”
Rocci capped his night by making a leaping catch over East defender Cameron Eakes at midfield and running to glory for a 75-yard score.
“Kel threw it up, it was a little short, so I slowed down and went up for it,” Rocci said. “(Eakes) had it for a second, but I just kind of took it out of his hands.”
He might have added to his stat line in the second half, but the final two quarters flew by thanks to the 40-point mercy rule running clock. The Patriots led 48-0 before East scored with no time left on the clock to make it 48-6 at halftime.
West had just three possessions in the second half with the last one seeing the quarterback take a knee three times to run out the clock. The earlier two possessions resulted in only one first down and two punts.
“I could have pulled the energy from somewhere if we had to play the second half,” Rocci said. “I was kind of happy after the way I played in the first half, but I was kind of sad we didn’t get to play the second half too.”
Rocci was in uniform last season when West turned it over four times in the first half on its way to an eye-opening 21-14 loss in the Mullet Bucket.
“We knew we had to bring it back across the bridges,” he said. “We had that mentality going in. We kind of knew we had the right game plan and could take care of business.”
Rocci said he knew he was going to have a bigger role this season when he was in the starting lineup and began catching passes during offseason, 7-on-7 competitions.
“I just realized that I could have an important role,” he said.
And now with his breakout performance, he’s setting his sights higher as the season progresses.
“It definitely boosted my ego,” he said with a laugh. “Stay tuned till next week.”
An honor-roll student, he reported that he’d be interested in playing college football but is preparing to attend school whether or not he continues in athletics. He is considering majoring in culinary arts.
“I’ve been thinking about that for a year or two,” he said. “I really like to cook.”
Here are a few of Rocci’s favorite things, as well as his ideal groups with which to eat dinner and survive a zombie apocalypse and the five items he would take with him on a deserted island:
Favorite Movie: “Forrest Gump.”
Favorite TV Show: “QB1: Beyond the Lights.”
Favorite Cartoon: “The Simpsons.”
Favorite Band/Artist: Drake.
Favorite Song: “Drift Away” by Uncle Kracker.
Favorite Book: Bible.
Favorite Team: Green Bay Packers.
Favorite Athlete: Jalen Ramsey.
Favorite Vacation: Bahamas.
Favorite Hobby: Cooking.
Favorite Subject: Math.
Favorite Quote: “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” – Mark Twain.
Favorite Food: Pizza.
Favorite Drink: Gatorade.
Favorite Restaurant: Wendy’s.
Favorite Sports Memory: Hitting the game-winner against Northside-Jacksonville last year.
Favorite Teacher: Ms. Dega Lancaster.
Favorite Sport: Football.
Favorite Pre-Game/Post-Game Ritual: Listening to pre-game playlist.
Favorite Website/App: Snapchat.
Ideal Dinner Guest List: LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Antonio Brown, Ethan Chambers and Dailey Kintz.
Ideal Group To Survive A Zombie Apocalypse: Logan Headington, Trey Clarke, Jr Eastman, Nick Fulmer, Braxton Plisko and coach Sammy Teague.
Items For A Deserted Island: Food, water, knife, firestarter and a football.