Kingsford defense has final say against CG-Belgium in battle of football wills
Heading into last Friday’s game against Kingsford, Cedar Grove-Belgium football coach Chris Zablocki wasn’t sure how his team would fare in its first-ever meeting with a perennial power from Upper Michigan.
But he did know the Rockets would have their hands full in their 2012 home opener against a well-coached foe from a larger school with a strong football tradition.
“We played probably the best high school football team in Upper Michigan,” Zablocki said after seeing Kingsford hold on for a 20-7 win.
“They have a school twice our size and twice as many kids in their program, but we stayed with them. I was very proud of our kids. We showed we can play with anybody.”
Kingsford never trailed, building a 14-0 lead by halftime and withstanding a second-half rally by the host Rockets. The Flivvers’ defense successfully checked tailback Alex Giles, the centerpiece of Cedar Grove-Belgium’s ground game.
Giles, an all-state back who rushed for more than 2,600 yards last year, was held to 32 yards on 16 carries by a swarming Kingsford scheme that gave him little room to move.
“They did a good job and had somebody spying Alex wherever he went,” Zablocki said. “It was tough for him to get going, but it did open up some other things for us.”
After a near-miss late in the first half — when quarterback Drew Emperley’s pass for Giles over the middle sailed awry — the Rockets connected on their opening drive of the third quarter.
This time, Emperley faked a handoff to Giles and found Josh Winkleff open for a 23-yard touchdown strike. Arjun Seghal’s extra point pulled Cedar Grove-Belgium within 14-7.
But that was all the offense the Rockets could muster. In the fourth quarter, Kingsford cashed in on a short Cedar Grove-Belgium punt with a quick scoring drive. Reed Larson’s 10-yard touchdown run gave the Flivvers their final points.
Kingsford (2-0) got its first two touchdowns on a 7-yard run by Larson in the first quarter and a 12-yar run by Sean Ryan in the second period.
Larson finished with 72 rushing yards on 16 carries, and Ryan added 80 yards on 13 attempts.
The Rockets got a strong game from Emperley, a junior who completed six of seven passes for 130 yards. He had one pass intercepted. Giles was his top target, making four receptions for 43 yards.
Emperley also had a 62-yard completion to Adam Chier.
“It was a loss, but we had a lot of positives,” said Zablocki, whose team fell to 0-2.
“I was really impressed with the way our kids battled against a great team. We learned some things that are going to help us down the road.”
This weekend, the Rockets will play the second of their two games against Upper Michigan teams when they travel to Escanaba for a noon game Saturday as part of an overnight stay.
The contests against out-of-state teams were scheduled by Cedar Grove-Belgium after two Central Lakeshore teams — Sheboygan Lutheran/Christian/Kohler and Elkhart Lake-Glenbeulah — dropped WIAA football. Zablocki, who has family in Upper Michigan, helped arrange the games to fill out the Rockets’ schedule.
“They’re both tough teams, but it’s a great experience for our kids,” he said.
“Besides giving us two good games, it’s a chance for our kids to meet kids from another area.”
Image Information: CEDAR GROVE-BELGIUM’S Adam Chier tried to escape the clutches of a Kingsford tackler during a nonconference game last Friday. Kingsford, an Upper Michigan team, used a strong defensive effort to secure a 20-7 win. Photo by Sam Arendt