Sundling, Rockets stop CFFP

Dennis Grall | Daily Press Nate Olson (42) of Rapid River and Riley Hendrickson (2) of Forest Park try to retrieve a deflected pass in the third quarter of Friday’s eight-player regional championship game at Rapid River. The pass fell incomplete. Rapid River eliminated the defending state champion Trojans 40-34 and will host Cedarville in the semifinals Saturday.

RAPID RIVER — Nate Olson completed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Sam Orth with 1:19 remaining to put Rapid River up 40-34 and it held on to beat defending state champion Forest Park to win the eight player Division 2 district final here Friday.

Olson eluded a defender and scrambled out of the pocket to find Orth on a 4th-and-10 play from the Trojans’ 19-yard line.

Olson had just entered the game as the quarterback on that drive. He made a great impact on the first play by busting out a 42-yard run to put the ball deep in Trojans’ territory at the 31-yard line.

Rockets’ coach Steve Ostrenga decided to make an adjustment by putting him in during that series.

“We decided to change things up to give them (Forest Park) a different look,” Ostrenga said. “Nate plays that set and he made a great play (on the touchdown).”

The Trojans had just scored on their previous drive to tie the score at 34 with 3:50 remaining. Trojans’ quarterback Tommy Peltoma found Tommy Showers for a 15-yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-11. The Trojans went for two and failed, leaving the score tied.

The game was wild throughout, with both teams scoring at will during the first half before the defenses settled down and controlled the second half.

Forest Park marched down the field at ease and punched it on a C.J. Post one-yard touchdown run to open the scoring.

On the ensuing possession, Rockets’ quarterback Brent Lundquist connected with Tyler Sundling on a 73-yard strike to tie the score at eight. The two teams traded scores a couple more times before either side could make a significant stop.

Trailing 28-22, the Trojans forced the Rockets to punt in their own end. A bad snap on the punt set the Trojans up at the Rockets’ 23-yard line, and on the very next play Post ran it in for a touchdown to tie it back up at 28 before the half.

At halftime, both coaches knew adjustments had to be made, particulary on the defensive side.

“We made some adjustments and so did they (Forest Park),” Ostrenga said. “Dave Graff is a great coach for them. We tackled a lot better in the second half and got off the ball quicker. Give our coaches a lot of credit.”

Graff agreed, saying this has been a common trend for his team this season.

“We don’t have enough guys to do a scrimmage in practice,” he said. “So in most of our games this year we get off to a slow start because the guys have to get used to who they’re going against. Once they do that, they respond better and settle in nicely.”

The second half was a defensive struggle most of the way.

After the Rockets were forced to punt on their first possession, Forest Park got the ball with good field position in Rocket territory. But the Rockets stopped the Trojans on a 4th-and-four play from the 18 and the Rockets took over on downs.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Trojans were driving deep into Rocket territory again, eventually setting up a 1st-and-goal at the seven-yard line. The Trojans ran it three times and came up with 4th-and-goal from the one. The Rockets defense held strong again as they stuffed a run by Post for no gain. Two plays later, Lundquist completed a pass to Sundling, who caught the ball near the 10-yard line and streaked down the left sideline for a 98-yard touchdown to put the Rockets ahead 34-28.

“I just got open and knew I had a chance to make a play,” Sundling said.

The two teams traded scores again later in the fourth quarter before the Rockets came up with one last stop on the Trojans’ final possession to seal the win. The Trojans were able to move the ball to the Rockets’ 36-yard line but their final heave to the end zone fell incomplete.

“It’s a heartbreaker,” Graff said. “It’s a tough pill to swallow. Our senior class put in so much hard work and it had to come to an end. They’re all good kids, they did anything for Forest Park.”

On the opposing side, Ostrenga was extremely happy for his players.

“That was a great game by two good teams,” he said. “We’ve put in a lot of hard work, and when you put in hard work sometimes good things happen. I’m extremely proud of the players and the coaches.”

Sundling had himself a night, catching three passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran four times for 49 yards and a touchdown.

“Our offensive line blocked perfect tonight to make it all possible,” he said. “I’m blessed. My grandpa passed away recently so I’m just out here trying to honor him.”

Lundquist had a big night passing, throwing for 232 yards and four touchdowns, on his only completions in 10 attempts. Olson went 1-2 for 19 yards and a touchdown, and also ran four times for 43 yards. Noah Gustafson caught one pass for 62 yards and a touchdown.

Graff was very complimentary of the Rockets in defeat.

“We played a really good Rapid River team,” he said. “They have a very nice mix of power and speed. This year, we didn’t have the speed we’d like to have so we had to compensate for that. I think fatigue kind of set in in the second half.”

Peltoma finished with 141 yards on 28 carries and a touchdown to lead the Trojans. He finished 8-20 for 113 yards and a touchdown passing as well. Post carried 21 times for 104 yards and three scores. Showers and Evan Hedtke each caught three passes for 37 yards.

Rapid River moves on to the regionals Saturday when they host Cedarville, who beat Posen 44-0 Friday.