Rapid River celebrates state football championship

Courtesy photo The Rapid River High School Division 2 state eight-player football champions were honored at a gathering in the school gym Friday, with students and members of the community celebrating the school’s first state championship. Long-time head coach Steve Ostrenga addresses the players during the pep rally Friday.

RAPID RIVER — Four weeks have passed since the Rapid River Rockets were crowned eight-player Division 2 state football champions.

The Rockets had a chance to reflect on their achievements while being honored during Friday’s pep assembly in the high school gym.

“This brought back the memories and got us even more excited,” said senior Brent Lundquist. “It was like a dream come true. I had been dreaming of this since I was down in the grades.”

Rapid River began its playoff run with a 20-18 victory at Engadine. The Rockets then edged defending champ Forest Park (40-34) and Cedarville (36-30) and beat Onekama (30-18) for the title.

“It was tough, but we were rolling after the first playoff game,” said senior Noah Gustafson. “They were a good team. We played as a team more than we did in the first game with them (in a 30-12 loss at Engadine). After that we were thinking we didn’t want to quit yet. We wanted to keep going.”

Lundquist had similar thoughts about the playoff run.

“We were looking for redemption,” he said. “Engadine was a good team, but we wanted to play them again. Forest Park was an extremely tough team. We could tell they spent a lot of time in the weight room and they were very physical. Cedarville was a big, tall and fast team. We didn’t have much film on Onekama until that week, but we knew they were there for a reason. We had to bring our best game.”

Lundquist then said it took a while for everything to sink in after the championship game ended.

“We just couldn’t believe what happened,” he added. “It took days for everything to sink in. We were kind of on Cloud 9. I remember watching Jake Pearson and his (Rapid River) teammates. They were a real good team (state eight-player runners-up in 2013). It was something we wanted to be a part of. We just stayed as a family and all the hard work paid off.”

Gustafson tried his best to describe how he felt after hoisting the state championship trophy Nov. 17 in the Superior Dome.

“It was surreal,” he said. “I don’t even know how to describe it. You’d have to be there to know what it’s really like. There was no greater feeling than that. We had some of the grade school kids here today and they were having fun. Hopefully, this will motivate them to work hard. We had a great season. That was the best season of my life.”

Friday’s activities provided the Rockets with another chance to hoist the trophy.

“This brought back memories bigtime,” said head coach Steve Ostrenga. “All this was a culmination of the coaches who helped me. We were blessed. Not every team gets to win. Everything happens so fast. You get the Thanksgiving Break, then you start planning for next season. It takes a family to pull it all together.”

Assistant coach Kurt Almonroeder was also thankful to have an opportunity to reflect on this season’s success.

“When we won in Marquette, it didn’t sink in right away,” he said. “Both teams were pretty similar. Both had a good offensive line and were good in the skilled positions. It was a good match-up for us.

“The whole coaching staff was proud of the way the kids stayed together. It was great for the younger kids to see what hard work can do. Hopefully, this will inspire some of them to play football.”