Late defensive stop allows CG-Belgium to preserve title-clinching victory over Ozaukee in CLC slugfest
When the Cedar Grove-Belgium football team traveled to Fredonia to take on Ozaukee last Friday, both teams and their fans knew the game was likely to decide the Central Lakeshore Conference title.
Appropriately, the showdown went down to the wire.
When the final horn sounded, it was the visiting Rockets who claimed a 33-27 victory that assured them of least a share of the league crown.
Trailing by six points in the closing minutes, Ozaukee drove the length of the field and reached the Cedar Grove-Belgium 20-yard line.
However, the drive stalled there. The Warriorsâ€™ final shot at victory ended when quarterback Colton Susenâ€™s fourth-down pass for tight end Steve Street was broken up in the end zone by defensive back Logan Peterson.
â€śIt was a heck of a football game,â€ť said Ozaukee coach Jim Lippe, whose team faced a 21-7 deficit in the second half before rallying to pull even in the final period.
â€śOur boys really played their hearts out. They left it all out on the field. It was a tough, hard-fought game.â€ť
For Cedar Grove-Belgium coach Chris Zablocki, the win was even more rewarding. Not only did it assure the Rockets of a successful CLC title defense, it came on the road against a tough foe.
â€śOzaukee is playing very well. Theyâ€™re very well-coached and battled us all the way,â€ť said Zablocki, whose team improved its league record to 3-0, one game ahead of Howards Grove (2-1) and 1-1/2 games in front of the Warriors (1-1).
â€śThis was a tremendous high school football game. It came down to a defensive play at the end, but thatâ€™s how championships are won.â€ť
A huge crowd was on hand for the game. In addition to the main attraction on the field, Ozaukee had a variety of pregame and halftime activities planned to pack the stands â€” and it worked.
The parking lot was overflowing, and there were almost as many people standing as there were in the seats.
In an otherwise even game, Cedar Grove-Belgium held a decisive edge in rushing. Led by senior tailback Alex Gilesâ€™ game-high 210 yards on 28 carries, the Rockets collected 284 yards on the ground, 101 more than Ozaukee.
Greg Wenzel added 61 rushing yards on 28 carries for Cedar Grove-Belgium.
It was Giles who scored the winning touchdown on a 40-yard run with 6:09 left to play.
â€śAlex had another tremendous game,â€ť Zablocki said. â€śBut a lot of our kids rose to the occasion in this one.â€ť
The Warriorsâ€™ ground game was led by Ethan Brouillette with 95 yards on 16 carries. Logan Smith added 77 yards on 14 rushes.
Ozaukee got on the scoreboard first after the Rockets fumbled the opening kickoff. At the 9:40 mark, Susen connected with Street on a 28-yard touchdown pass that put the Warriors up, 7-0.
However, the Rockets responded with a huge second quarter, scoring three unanswered touchdowns to take a 21-7 lead. After Giles raced 23 yards for a score, quarterback Drew Emperley threw touchdown passes of eight yards to Grayson Peiffer and 35 yards to Brian Mueller.
Ozaukee got back in the fight with 2:42 left before intermission. Susen found Street open again for a touchdown pass, this one from 10 yards out, as the Warriors pulled within 21-14 at the break.
Ozaukee was the only team to score in the third quarter. With 9:37 left, Logan Smith reached the end zone on a 6-yard run. However, Brouilletteâ€™s conversion kick failed, leaving the Warriors trailing, 21-20.
When Emperley scored on an 8-yard run early in the fourth quarter, his team held a 27-20 edge. The Rockets went for a two-point conversion, but the pass failed.
The seesaw continued when Smith scored on a 13-yard run with 6:59 remaining. Brouilletteâ€™s kick tied the game at 27-27.
But it only took the Rockets 50 seconds to answer, this time with Giles breaking free for a 40-yard touchdown sprint. When the kick failed, the Warriors still had enough time to try and answer.
Relying on the rush, Ozaukee drove deep into Cedar Grove-Belgium territory, where the Rocketsâ€™ defense stiffened.
Zablocki said he was confident of his teamâ€™s ability to protect the lead down the stretch.
â€śWeâ€™re a young team, but our kids are getting better every week. To see them come through like this was tremendous,â€ť he said.
Lippe also tipped his cap to the Rockets.
â€śCongratulations to Cedar Grove. They played a good game,â€ť he said. â€śWe had our opportunities down the stretch to win it and couldnâ€™t convert.â€ť
Lippe praised his offensive line for its blocking as well as the defensive efforts of linebackers Cody Stageman and Hunter Hess.
The game left both teams with 4-2 overall records.
This Friday, the Rockets will host Gibraltar in a 7 p.m. nonconference game for their homecoming.
Ozaukee will travel to Howards Grove for a 7 p.m. CLC contest.
Image Information: CEDAR GROVE-BELGIUM COACH Chris Zablocki gave Grayson Peiffer a leaping embrace following a 33-27 win over Ozaukee in a Central Lakeshore Conference football game last Friday night. By hanging on for the victory, the Rockets assured themselves of a share of the league title.
Photo by Sam Arendt