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Monday February 26, 2024
Kanyuh Goes Wild As Rockets Rally Past Engadine

ENGADINE---George Kanyuh is well-known in Delta County for being a longtime Michigan State Police trooper (now retired), and for leading the successful Rapid River Rockets softball program down the tournament trail. 

Well, there's another George Kanyuh who may not be as well-known in Delta County, but chances are good that the folks in Engadine won't forget this Kanyuh for a long time.

The trooper and coach's son, also named George, had a monster game Friday night to lead the Rapid River Rockets to a 36-29 playoff victory over the Engadine Eagles.

Kanyuh caught tochdown passes of 58 and 23 yards from quarterback Mason Berglund as the Rockets rallied from a 15-6 deficit to take the lead.

But it was on defense and special teams where the 6-foot-3, 210-pound senior went into "beast mode". Midway through the fourth qaurter, the Eagles had just made a goal-line stand, stopping the Rockets from scoring on four plays from inside the five yard-line.

George Kanyuh blocks punt for TD
Rapid River's lead was still 30-21, and the Eagles got a 41-yard run from Scout Bigger to get momentum. That's when Kanyuh took control.

He had sacks of quarterback Trevor Brawley on three consecutive plays, adding up to losses of 30 yards. And then, when Engadine tried to punt on 4th-and-40, Kanyuh got his body in front of it and blocked the kick. He fell on it in the end zone for a touchdown that pretty much sealed the Rapid River upset win.

Engadine would score a late touchdown, but could not get the on-side kick. Rapid River made two first downs, and then took a knee three times. Victory to the Rockets!

"I can't say enough about the perserverance that these guys have shown," Rapid River Coach Steve Ostrenga said. "A number of people have been talking about how this team wasn't as good as some of the teams we had before."

"I tell you, these guys learned a valuable lesson...good and bad. We've had some adversity. We've had some injuries."

It was a satisfying win for the Rockets, who lost 62-30 in Engadine earlier this year.

"They hung 62 on us here, and we just used that as motivation," said Rapid River Assistant Coach Greg Rubick, who gave the kids an emotional address before the game. "We challenged them during the week."

"We know what Engadine likes to run. We worked on it all week. All year, there's been talk that this isn't the Jake Pearson team, and this team is soft, and this team doesn't have the heart. I saw heart tonight."

Engadine's Hunter Collins breaks long TD run
The game didn't start well for the Rockets, as they went three-and-out on their first two offensive series. In the middle, Engadine scored an easy 40-yard touchdown run by Hunter Collins.

The Eagles were in Rockets territory again when they fumbled, recovered by Dave Johnson. And finally, the Rapid River offense got going. Berglund completed a 30-yard pass to Craig Martin, followed by a 38-yard completion to Jarrett LaCasse.

LaCasse completed the drive with a three-yard touchdown run.

Engadine drove to the Rockets three yard-line, but fumbled again, this time on a missplayed snap. Rapid River was able to get to midfield, but had to punt.

The Eagles took advantage this time, with Brawley scoring the touchdown on a short run.

The two-point conversion gave Engadine a 15-6 lead, but the Rockets bounced back quickly as Berglund found Kanyuh for the 58-yard touchdown pass right up the middle of the field.

Berglund's two-point run made it a 15-14 game.

"It was big for momentum," Kanyuh said. "I just remember thinking when that ball was in the air, it felt like an eternity. I just thought 'I better catch this'."

But the Eagles responded again, as Scout Bigger broke free for a 52-yard touchdown run. It was 21-14 at halftime.

Berglund-to-Kanyuh 23 yard TD play
The Eagles had the ball to start the third quarter, Berglund got in front of a pass in single coverage and intercepted it, and then the Rockets moved 65 yards for a touchdown. They absorbed a quarterback sack along the way, but Berglund found Kanyuh in the end zone for the touchdown on 3rd-and-23.

"I had no idea where I was at on that catch," Kanyuh said. "I didn't know if I was ten yards out of bounds. I just looked up, caught the ball, then looked down, and saw I was in bounds. So, I was grateful for that one, too." 

The two-point pass to Logan Hardwick gave Rapid its first lead at 22-21.

"That's one thing that Coach Steve Ostrenga preaches all the time: that we can't lose our heads," Berglund said about the comeback. "When we start getting down on ourselves, that's when teams starting to put the beat-down on us."

"That's what happened the last time we were here. But that was fun watching Big George go up there. Seeing that big frame go up there, that's just glorious to watch!"

When Engadine got the ball back, the Eagles tried a trick play, as Brawley shoveled it back to Bigger, who tried a halfback option pass.

It was a dying duck, and Berglund got his second straight interception. The Rockets drove down the field and three minutes later, Berglund scored a one-yard touchdown. The pass to Martin made it 30-21.

John Stropich Interception
The Eagles continued to shoot themselves in the foot, as Brawley threw another interception, this time on an exceptional play by John Stropich.

Rapid River drove inside the five yard line, but got stuffed, but Engadine would not be able to do much as Kanyuh had four straight plays that most high school football players dream about. The three sacks and punt block for a touchdown were epic.

"It's just pretty powerful," Kanyuh said of getting one sack after another. "It just picks you up for the next play. It just keeps going, and ultimately, we got that turnover there for a touchdown. I'm always trying to block punts and I really like the formation that Engadine has here. I thought I'd get ahold of one today, and I did."

"It was huge," Ostrenga said of Kanyuh's blocked punt. "I turned my head a little bit, and I'm yelling 'we're gonna run a safe punt, safe punt!'"

"And all of a sudden I hear this thud, and I don't see the ball up. Then I see George laying on the ball in the end zone. I was like 'you've got to be kidding me, great job!' He took over the game."

Berglund completed 12 of 21 passes for 222 yards and two toucdowns. He had no interceptions, in fact, while Engadine had five turnovers, Rapid River had none. Martin had six catches for 72 yards. Kanyuh had four catches for 101 yards.

On the ground, Berglund led the way with 131 yards on 24 carries.

Engadine had two backs rush for over 100 yards: Bigger (141 yards on 12 carries) and Collins (118 yards on 14 touches).

But the Eagles (7-3) went away from their running game at times, as is evidenced by four pass interceptions in the second half.

Rapid River (7-3) has the big challenge of travelling to Powers next Friday to face the top-ranked team in the state, the North Central Jets.

The Jets (10-0) beat Stephenson, 70-22, in Friday's other game.

Next week's playoff game will kick off at 7:00 ET/6:00 CT next Friday night at the NCA Field. It will be broadcast live on WGKL-FM (105.5), WCHT-AM (600), and on-line at www.rrnsports.com.

Click the thumbnails in the ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS box above to see photos and videos taken by Nate Bellville, and hear radio replays and interviews.

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Tuesday November 24, 2015
Jets Soar Past Rockets For Regional Championship
Saturday November 7, 2015
Rockets Soar To 36-0 Lead, Cruise Past SC Cougars
Thursday September 3, 2015