Ready for liftoff

Jon Young

RAPID RIVER – Rapid River finds themselves in familiar territory as they get set to play in their third straight eight-man state semifinal game.

The Rockets (11-0) play host to the Kinde-North Huron Warriors (8-3) on Saturday, with kickoff set for 1 p.m. Rapid River head coach Steve Ostrenga knows his team will have their hands full against the Warriors offense.

“When you get this far it’s going to be a quality football team that you’re going to play and we’ve had a chance to look at Kinde-North Huron, they have some really good athletes,” Ostrenga said. “Their running back (Brandon Moore) is probably the best we’re going to face. Moore is the real deal, 5 feet 8 inches, 170 pounds; solid. They have a nice fullback; the quarterback is 6 feet 2 inches, so he’s a pretty tall kid who can see over the line, he throws a nice ball.”

Moore paced Kinde-North Huron’s offense in last weeks 64-22 win over Owendale-Gagetown, racking 248 yards on 23 carries. Ostrenga said the Warriors offense is hard to defend because it features multiple formations.

“They have a solid line, they do a lot of pulling, a lot of trap, a lot of counter, a lot of different formations they’re going to throw at you to try to take advantage of what is working best,” he said. “Our guys are going to have to be really focused and just be awake on each formation. We’re going to have to play our best ball-game.”

Rapid River secured their third straight regional title with a 50-21 victory over Engadine last week. Kinde-North Huron won the school’s first eight-man regional title last week and head coach Travis Fischer said Rapid River’s success is what his team is striving for.

“I’m a big believer in to be the best you have to beat the best and we’re coming up to face a team that’s been to the state semis three straight years and that’s the level of consistency I’m trying to get our program to,” Fischer said. “I have nothing but deep admiration for their program and what they’re doing and we hope we can come up and give them a game.”

While this is the schools first match-up, each team has played Bellaire this season, with the Rockets winning 74-42 and the Warriors picking up a 40-0 victory. Fischer said it’s nice to see how they lineup against a mutual opponent but he’s not taking too much stock in the outcomes.

“You can draw a little bit from them but the great thing about high school football is anybody can beat anybody on any given day,” he said. “It’s nice to see how we lined up against Bellaire and how Rapid River did but for the most part all that goes out the window once kickoff happens and it’s down to execution and ball protection.”

Ostrenga said his team is focused on getting off to a quick start, after falling behind 8-0 in the first quarter against Engadine and 7-0 against Posen the week before.

“We’re going to have to hit the ground running this week,” Ostrenga said “You don’t want to get behind this football team because it’s going to be tough to stop all their different formations. You never want to get off to a slow start but absolutely at this point you hate to get off to a slow start. Our veteran guys, our captains are going to have to lead us.”

Win or lose, this will be the Rockets last home game of the season as the winner will travel to downstate Greenville for the State Championship game.

Ostrenga praised the community, his coaching staff and the team for the Rockets deep playoff run.

“Were honored that we’re here,” he said. “It’s a tribute to the guys hard-work, I appepriciate their hard-work and I appepriciate the coaches. Bill Schram, Paul Brunngraeber and Tyler Kuehl have been excellent.”