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Rockets return to the playoffs

RAPID RIVER — Following a year’s absence, the Rapid River Rockets are returning to the football playoffs this season.

Rapid River (5-1) opens by hosting Rudyard (3-3) tonight at 7 in an eight-player, Division 2 contest. The Rockets finished 4-5 and didn’t qualify for the post-season a year ago.

“They’re a veteran team,” said Rockets’ coach Steve Ostrenga. “They also have some younger players, but they have a lot of football under their belts.”

The Bulldogs are led by 6-foot-2, 230-pound junior quarterback E.J. Suggitt.

“He can make things go,” said Ostrenga. “He does a good job hiding the ball. They like to run a lot of cross-action and have all the passes you want to have. They have a good scheme. They mix and match pretty well.

“They’ve been building for this year. They’ve avoided injuries.”

Ostrenga says the Rockets are also pretty healthy coming in.

“There are three things we have to do,” he said. “We have to eliminate turnovers, do the little things on special teams and avoid penalties. We also need to be sound on fundamentals. We can’t panic if they make big plays. We have to stay the course. We have to step up and respond to what they do. They run good patterns. They can run and catch the ball equally well.”

Bryce Lundquist, a 6-0, 205 senior, has handled the signal-calling duties for the Rockets this season.

“Bryce has done okay this year,” said Ostrenga. “The players who decided to come back have shown nice improvement. Across the board, the entire team has shown nice improvement. We appreciate the parents and coaches for all their effort.”

Lundquist has a variety of targets to choose from. They include senior twins Max Lenaker (6-1, 170) and Ben Lenaker (6-0, 165) at offensive end and classmates Griffin Flath (6-1, 185), Ishmael Hernandez (6-0, 180) and Mason Kudlick (6-0, 160).

In total, the Rockets are bringing 11 seniors into the post-season, including Flath and 6-4, 260 senior offensive lineman/linebacker Parker Dausey.

Flath leads a crop of running backs, which include Hernandez and Kudlick.

“It starts with our offensive line where we have Wyatt and Damyn Smith and Parker Dausey starting in the interior,” said Ostrenga. “We look to go with the experience. The guys have to be versatile as well.

“I think Rudyard is formidable. They’ve gone toe to toe with the best teams in the conference (Great Lakes Eight East Division). There’s always good football teams in our conference. You can’t overlook anybody.”

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