Hallelujah in Hilbert

n Clutch finish makes up for awful start in as Cedar Grove-Belgium repeats as Big East champions

CEDAR GROVE-BELGIUM’S Tyler Kowalkowski forced a wild throw from Hilbert quarterback Grant Popson on the final play of overtime in a 28-21 Rockets win last Friday. Photo by Mitch Maersch
Ozaukee Press staff

As far as Big East Conference games go, Friday night was unfamiliar territory for the Cedar Grove-Belgium High School football team.

In 13 minutes, the Rockets had fallen behind fellow undefeated Hilbert, 21-0, on the road, and it looked like they would only have a chance at a share of the league title.

While it looked improbable, a comeback was far from impossible with this group.

“We’re a family. We believe in everyone. Anything’s possible with us,” junior wide receiver Max Ford said.

Sure enough, the Rockets clawed their way back to a tie to force overtime — another new frontier for the team.

The Wolves won the toss and deferred, meaning the Rockets would get the ball first from their opponents’ 25-yard line. That was just fine with them, after scoring the tying touchdown with six minutes to play and swinging the momentum to their side.

“I like setting the tone. I believe we can go in and just punch them in the mouth at that point,” junior quarterback Michael Navis said.

Coach Dan Schreurs inserted physical inside linebacker Ben Anzia at fullback, and he helped pave the way for four Chris Jentges runs up the middle, reaching Hilbert’s 4-yard line.

Using a play the coaches drew up on the dirt, Navis faked a handoff inside and sprinted toward right pylon. The Wolves expected another run up the gut, and nobody covered the outside. Navis scored easily.

Jentges hit the extra point, and the Rockets went up, 28-21.

On Hilbert’s turn, the Wolves threw an incomplete pass, ran for three yards and then no gain. On fourth and seven from the Rockets’ 23-yard line, quarterback Grant Propson rolled right, looking for a target.

But he had no time. Tyler Kowalkowski burst through and snagged Propson’s arm, eventually spinning him to the ground. Propson hurled a pass off balance the best he could to no one in particular, and it fell incomplete.

The Rockets survived and, with one game left in the regular season, sealed at least a share of their second straight Big East title.

“Unbelievably awesome,” senior lineman Brett Feind said.

“Amazing. Speechless. Just never gave up,” Jentges said.

Kowalkowski described the final play that sealed the victory.

“He’s coming around the edge like they normally do. I just went after him,” he said.

It was a Houdini-esque escape for the Rockets, who began the game with one bad play after another.

 The Wolves drove 58 yards for a score on the game’s opening drive, capped by a 33-yard run on third and 2 by Evan Lau.

The Rockets followed with a dropped pass, near interception and what amounted to a fake punt that failed. Navis was to do a running and kick and had the choice to run if he wanted. He saw a seam but it quickly closed.

That let the Wolves set up shop on the Rockets’ 10-yard line. Propson scored on a 2-yard run on third down. At that point, a missed extra point was all that was going well for the visitors.

The offense still wasn’t clicking and had to punt. The defense forced a punt, but the Rockets muffed it. The Wolves had the ball at the Rockets’ 29-yard line late in the first quarter already up two scores.

On fourth and 10, the rarely passing Wolves completed a rollout pass just over an outstretched arm of a defender for a 29-yard score. Propson’s 2-point conversion run made it 21-0.

But the game was far from over.

“We’re a family. We always come back from anything,” Kowalkowski said.

“It was definitely ‘Wake up,’” Navis said of the team’s mentality.

The Rockets got on the board with 4:53 left in the half. Alex Acevedo capped a nine-play, 80-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown run.

After forcing another punt, the offense advanced again, but a sack led to fourth and 23 from the Wolves’ 37-yard line with less than a minute left in the half.

Navis rolled right, waited and then stepped back and launched the wet ball across the field to the left corner. A waiting Ford caught it at the 5-yard line and fought his way into the end zone.

It was 21-14 at half.

“That was kind of the kickstart to where we are now,” Ford said.

The Rockets took the second-half kickoff and completed a 15-yard pass on third and 16, and converted a fourth and 15 with another pass, but the Wolves picked off a pass in the end zone, stopping the drive.

In the fourth quarter, the Rockets mounded a 57-yard, 10-play drive to tie the game. Jentges finished it off from 18 yards out with a burst up the middle. Brad Katte made two key catches across the middle on the drive for 26 yards.

By the time overtime started, the Rockets were pumped.

“I think it shows the determination and the grit this team has to not give up and battle back. They could have caved,” Schreurs said.

“I think this is a huge opportunity to learn from, instead of just a blowout. We definitely got closer,” Navis said.

“You just can’t write this stuff. I don’t know how to describe it,” Anzia said, adding playing fullback was “bliss.”

Navis finished with 119 yards rushing and two scores. Jentges had 51 yards and a score, and Acevedo 37 and a score. Navis went 6-for-14 passing for 114 yards, a score and two interceptions.

Lau ran for 84 yards on 17 carries.

Though heartbroken, the Wolves joined Rockets players at midfield for what has become their traditional post-game prayer.

Long after the game ended, someone had to go back to get Anzia out of the locker room. Schreurs said he was cleaning everything up, from soap bottles to tape and clumps of grass.

“It shows his true character,” Schreurs said.

The 7-1 Rockets finish the regular season with their homecoming game at 7 p.m. Friday against 3-5 Random Lake, which needs one win to get into the playoffs.

Note: The last time anyone can remember the Rockets going to overtime was in 1996. Schreurs scored the winning touchdown in double overtime to win the conference.



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