Stakes rise for Rockets-Trojans

Berth in eight-player state title game on line Friday in Rapid River

Dennis Grall | Daily Press Rapid River quarterback Brent Lundquist cuts upfield Friday as teammate Lenny Menary (52) blocks out Forest Park’s Hal Hoenig (65) during the eight-player regional championship at Rapid River. The Rockets won 40-34 and will host Cedarville at 7 p.m. Friday in the state Division 2 semifinal to determine one of the entrants in the Nov. 17 state finals in Marquette.

ESCANABA — The last time Rapid River faced Cedarville, the Rockets came away with a hard-fought 28-20 win. That was five weeks ago, and the stakes are a lot higher now as the teams play in an eight-player Division 2 semi-final at 7 p.m. Friday in Rapid River.

The Rockets trailed 20-6 at the half in the first match-up before scoring 22 unanswered points to win at Cedarville.

The Rockets are coming off a thrilling 40-34 home victory over 2017 state champion Forest Park in the regional championship game last Friday.

Meanwhile, the Trojans pounded Posen 44-0 on the road to advance to the semis.

Rockets’ coach Steve Ostrenga knows the challenge that lies ahead.

“They are very athletic and physical,” Ostrenga said. “They have some really good athletes. Their quarterback (Tristan Masuga) is a load to stop at 6’4, he can run and throw the ball really well.”

Defensively, the Trojans are led by all-conference end Jarron Masuga, who recorded 80 tackles, 14 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, nine fumble recoveries and two blocked punts. He also ran for seven yards per carry when used as a running back.

“Jarron (Masuga) is a monster on the offensive and defensive lines,” Ostrenga said. They also have the two Fountain boys (Grant and Gunnar), who are both very good players. Grant is all over the place on defense, playing multiple positions. Gunnar is an excellent wide receiver and a play-maker for their offense. They have very tough players on both sides of the ball.”

The Rockets have been playing some of their better football lately, and Ostrenga hopes that will continue Friday.

“We’re blessed to be in the semi-finals,” he said. “We’ve just been trying to play good, clean football. The previous coaches here really drove that into me — you’re only as good as your next play. Attention to detail is very important for us. All I ask out of the kids is that they give their best effort.”

Ostrenga went on to say the first game between the two teams could have gone either way, and the Trojans are a very solid team.

“They (Trojans) have knocked off some very quality teams,” he said. “They will give you multiple different formations, and they play hard. It’s going to be a dog fight.”

The Rockets are led by quarterback Brent Lundquist, who threw for 232 yards and four touchdowns against Forest Park. Wide receiver Tyler Sundling will also be a big factor. Last week he had four touchdowns running and receiving, accumulating 269 total yards.

Azariah Hernandez has become a key component as well for the Rockets, playing hard-nosed football on the defensive line and being a spark plug at tailback.

Cedarville coach Scott Barr shared his thoughts on the Rockets.

“They’re a really good football team,” Barr said. “It’s a collective effort, everyone contributes for them. They like to throw it deep, and we’re gonna have to shut down their running backs by minimizing their interior traps.”

The Trojans are led by the passing attack of Tristan Masuga, who threw for 1,534 yards and ran for another 491. Defensively, Grant Fountain was tied for the team lead in tackles with 80, and he also recorded six interceptions.

Barr knows minimizing mistakes will be a main key to victory.

“The main thing for us is minimizing those mistakes,” he said. “The last time we played them, we had 15 penalties, five turnovers and four dropped touchdown passes. We’d like to have more of a ball control type offense.”

Things have changed since, as the Trojans have hung 44 points on both of their previous playoff opponents and roll into this match-up with a lot of confidence.

“Our team’s clicking right now,” Barr said. “We’ve been playing very well on the road. It’s all about maintaining our level of play. The only thing we could really take away from the last couple of games is that we could play a little better on special teams, but outside of that we’ve been playing pretty close to perfect.”

The winner of this semi-final advances to the state championship game at the Superior Dome Nov. 17.