Rockets score 20th straight playoff appearance

By 
MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff

A strong rivalry featuring close and classic games was anything but last Friday as Cedar Grove-Belgium High School’s football team hollowed out Hilbert, 50-7.

The Rockets, usually the more pass-happy of the pair, did to Hilbert what the Wolves are used to doing to everyone else: They ran through, over and around them.

They had more than 300 yards rushing and a 43-7 lead at halftime and finished with nearly 400 yards on the Cedar Grove grass.

Senior running back Gabe Egan was the focus of the defense, and for good reason. Opponents don’t want him holding the ball, for it is often not long before he crosses the goal line with it.

“They had Gabe doubled up,” coach Dan Schreurs said.

“If they double Gabe like that, they’re emptying the box out and then it’s basically hat on hat, and puts Colton out in the zone,” he said.

Indeed, the Rockets’ offensive line dominated the game, opening running lanes for senior quarterback Colton Sellin and running backs Deven Soerens and Billy Navis. Soerens is a compact steam engine who runs through arm tackles and moves the pile, while Navis is taller and uses his frame to fight for extra yards. Sellin uses quickness and jukes to break into the open field, where he picks up speed.

Soerens ran 10 times for 101 yards and three touchdowns. Sellin ran 10 times for 97 yards and a score. Navis ran four times for 69 yards, Egan had 52 yards on five carries and William Stemwell had six runs for 47 yards and a score.

Sellin went 4-for-10 passing with two touchdowns and one interception. Egan caught three balls for 87 yards and a score.

Four of the Rockets’ five starting offensive linemen are seniors, and they have gelled in Big East Conference play after an 0-2 start against high-end opponents.

“I think what really helped tonight is overall everybody just knowing their responsibilities and gap blocking and it really did good for us,” center Dylan Dasher said. “We all know each other really well. We’re just communicating a lot and it really shows.”

“I think right away it was good from the get-go. We changed a couple of things because we were expecting a five-man front and got a four, but obviously looking at the score it didn’t change that much,” Diego Morales said.

“Once our run game’s going we’re a pretty good team. We block way better with a four-man (front),” James Knowles said.

“It’s a matter of getting it going,” Matthew Navis said of the ground game. “Once it’s going, it’s going. There’s no stopping it after that. It’s a train on wheels.”

“The O-line was amazing. Made big holes,” Soerens said.

“Those holes are giant. It all comes down to the linemen. They did great,” Billy Navis.

The win books the Rockets on a trip to the postseason for the 20th year, but Schreurs and his players didn’t even mention it. Schreurs was too concerned with his team looking ahead to the next game at its most heated rival.

“There was a lot of Oostburg talk this week,” he said. “We kind of refocused them.”

Oostburg is always an intense game that has a tendency to get chippy, and this season it may go a long way in determining the Big East champ. The Rockets are 4-0 and atop the standings. Oostburg is 3-1 after losing to Howards Grove, 14-6, last week.

That loss, Schreurs said, may only motivate the Flying Dutchmen more since they need a win to stay in league title contention.

But overlooking Hilbert wasn’t going to happen. Last season, the Rockets fumbled short of the goal line with seconds to play  and lost, 42-41. In 2020, the Rockets won, 25-18 and in 2018 they came back from a 21-0 deficit on the road and won in overtime, 28-21.

Last Friday, Hilbert started fast, scoring a touchdown on the second play from scrimmage. The Rockets responded by scoring touchdowns on their next four drives and totaled 50 unanswered points.

The first came on six running plays covering 59 yards. Soerens scored on a two-yard plunge.

After the Rockets forced a punt, Egan took a pitch from Sellin that was scored as a pass and raced 52 yards down the right sideline for a score.

Soerens picked off a pass on the ensuing possession and returned it to Hilbert’s 34-yard line. Three plays later, he scored from one yard out.

Soerens scored again on a four-yard run after a nine-play, 65-yard drive.

Sellin threw an interception on a deep jump ball on the next possession, so the Rockets went back to the running game. Sellin was escorted by his linemen up the middle for 53 yards with four minutes left in the second quarter, and it was 36-7.

After forcing another punt, the Rockets got the ball on their 10-yard line with 2 minutes, 43 seconds left until halftime. They drove 90 yards on 11 plays in two and a half minutes, and they never even needed to call a timeout. Sellin hit an open Mason Navis toward the left corner of the end zone for the score with 13.4 seconds left. Billy Navis ran three times for 42 yards during the drive.

Ethan Aponte picked off a Hilbert pass with two ticks left in the second quarter, ending any Wolves’ plans of scoring before the half.

“They hit us right away and we came right back. That’s how we play. We’re not going to take nothin’,” Billy Navis said.

“We just picked ourselves up. We got a score, too, so we kept that mentality. We drove and scored, then just kept doing it over and over,” Sellin said.

By the start of the third quarter, the Rockets had a running clock, a mercy rule-type feature that kicks in with a 35-point or more differential — only stopping the clock for scores, injuries and timeouts — and the second half went by quickly, mostly with both teams’ backups facing off.

The Rockets scored on the third play from scrimmage in the third quarter. Egan had a 45-yard run, and Stemwell took it the last 15 yards on a sweep right for a touchdown.

On defense, Soerens, Aponte and Jordan Platner each had an interception. Jackson Foster forced a fumble. Billy Navis, Platner and Gavin Davies each had seven tackles.

For Hilbert, Caron Grenzer went 3-for-8 passing for 26 yards and three picks. Matthew Sweere ran 10 times for 67 yards.

The Rockets’ big test is Friday at Oostburg. They already beat the other two teams tied for second in the Big East, Howards Grove and Reedsville, and don’t face a team above .500 after that.

Big East Conference standings: Cedar Grove-Belgium, 4-0; Howards Grove, 3-1; Oostburg, 3-1; Reedsville, 3-1; Manitowoc Lutheran, 1-3; Hilbert, 1-3; Ozaukee, 1-3; Random Lake, 0-4.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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