RAPID RIVER - After the Rapid River Rockets rolled to a 50-21 victory over Engadine to secure their third straight regional title, there were smiles, but not much celebrating - unless of course you count the gatorade bath head coach Steve Ostrenga got after the game.
Still, these Rockets are focused in their goal.
"It feels good but we've been there before," said Rockets All-U.P. center Hayden Hardwick. "There's one place we haven't been; on top of the state. That's where we want to go."
Keith?Shelton |?Daily Press
Rapid River quarterback Jake Pearson delivers a stiff arm to Engadine defender Hunter Collins as he looks downfield, during their regional title game, Friday night at Rapid River.
Hardwick tweaked his hamstring on the opening kickoff, not that anyone would notice with the Rockets still piling up 487 rushing yards in the victory, 306 coming from All-U.P. quarterback Jake Pearson.
Pearson had touchdown runs off 44, 85 and 87 yards in the first half alone and also completed two passes for 59 yards and a touchdown with one interception.
"Pearson is our conductor and he makes us go, but he can't do it without his offensive line, and Hayden, with the hamstring, he sucked it up. He did a nice job and made some nice seams for us," said Ostrenga. "The backs ran hard too. Pat Pryal and David Hough ran tough."
ENGADINE 8 0 6 7 - 21
RAP RIVER 14 16 20 0 - 50
E - Dishaw, 12-yard reception from Wyse, 7:42, 2pt run good
RR - Pearson, 44-yard run, 6:59, 2pt pass failed
RR - Pearson, 85-yard run, 2:28, 2pt run good
RR - Casey, 25-yard reception from Pearson, 6:25, 2pt pass good
RR - Pearson, 87-yard run, 1:30, 2pt pass good
RR - Pearson, 1-yard run, 5:28, 2pt pass good
E - McArthur, 65-yard run, 5:10, 2pt run failed
RR - Pryal, 77-yard run, 4:55 2pt pass failed
RR - Pearson, 4-yard run, 1:26, 2pt pass failed
E - McArthur, 5-yard run, 0:37.8 Gribbell kick good
Pryal rushed for 134 yards on eight carries and scored on a 77-yard blast in the third quarter and Hough added 50 yards on the ground.
"We did a solid job up front," said Hardwick. "Our backs did really good finding the cutbacks and they all ran hard. I'm very proud of them.
"Engadine is pretty tough with their All-U.P. nose tackle (Fred Gribbell), but we came together as a team and it was a beautiful thing."
Engadine had something to be happy about early. The Eagles won the coin toss but elected to defer and it paid off. Isak Frazier intercepted Pearson on the Rockets third play and quarterback Ben Wyse hooked up with Jake Dishaw in the endzone after a six-play driver and the Eagles had an 8-0 lead after the two point conversion.
However, not even a minute later, the Rockets were on the board after a trademark Pearson run, where he tried going up the middle, bounced off a defender and ran to the outside before taking off down the sideline 44 yards to paydirt. The Rockets didn't covert on the two-point attempt, but it didn't take long for Rapid River to gain the lead for good.
Mike Casey came up with a key interception, halting a 12-play, 24 -yard Eagles drive on the Rockets 36 yard line. The very next play, Pearson blasted off down the right sideline untouched for an 85-yard score. He took it himself on the two-point conversion, running through the Engadine line and Rapid led 14-8.
It wasn't all perfect for the Rockets. They were hit with three pass interference penalties that extended Eagles drives, and an intentional grounding call on Pearson, but the Eagles were not able to capitalize.
Forrest McArthur, who lined up at quarterback, running back and receiver for the Eagles (6-5) throughout the game, threw three interceptions, and Engadine also lost two fumbles, including one on a kick return.
However, the Eagles speed was evident and when they got a hole, they took advantage. McArthur was largely held in check on the ground, but he did break loose on a 65 yards touchdown run to make it 38-14 in the third quarter, however the Rockets scored on the very next play when Hough tore down the field for 77 yards, capping three touchdowns scored in 33 seconds.
McArthur carried 10 times for 87 yards and a touchdown, and was 5-for-15 through the air for 87 yards. Wyse was 3-for-9 for 42 yards and a touchdown.
"Our defense was huge," said Ostrenga. "We bent, but we made plays. We had decent pressure and made them throw a little out of rhythm. I know we had a couple pass interference calls, but I liked some of the tight coverage we had.
"I'm very proud of our defense. Jared Schwartz I thought had a huge game and helped solidify that trap they run with Ben Rubick. Mike Casey had an interception, David Hough had an interception and they had several fumble recoveries. Those are huge."
The Rockets (11-0) are now state semifinalists for the third consecutive year and are set to host Kinde-North Huron (8-3) on Saturday afternoon at a time to be determined. North Huron, from the tip of the thumb in lower Michigan defeated Owendale-Gagetown (Owengage) 62-22 Friday night.
"We expect a very tough ballgame," said Ostrenga. "Like last year against Bellaire, we'll have to play our best football if we want to win."