It’s an established fact that Cedar Grove-Belgium’s football team boasts a well-balanced offense.
Whether on the ground or through the air, the Rockets have grinded away at opposing defenses — to the tune of about 40 points per game — and have cruised nimbly into the second round of the Division 5 playoffs.
But not to be forgotten in the Rockets’ dangerous gridiron arsenal is a stout defense, which has proved a key ingredient in the team’s week-in-and-week-out success all year. Opponents have averaged just over 14 points per game against the Rockets — a big reason the team has romped to a 9-1 record entering tonight’s Level 2 contest against Bonduel (7-3). The teams square off at 7 p.m. tonight in Bonduel.
Coach Chris Zablocki said his team emphasizes defense, and credited the defensive coaching staff as well as players’ selfless style of play.
“Really, in order for our defense to work, you have to be extremely unselfish,” he said.
Chalk up plenty of that work to Greg Wenzel. The 5-foot-11, 188-pound senior middle linebacker has racked up a team-high 102 tackles. He’s forced four fumbles and two interceptions, and scored two defensive touchdowns: one on a fumble recovery, another on a pick return.
Josh Winkleff, who’s earned a solid offensive pedigree this year as one of the Rockets’ leading running backs (611 yards and six TDs on 109 carries) has proved an important complement in the linebacker corps. He’s racked up 48 tackles — eight for lost yardage — while forcing three fumbles and a pair of interceptions.
Adam Chier and Logan Peterson, meanwhile, have been nightmares for offensive lines and their respective quarterbacks. Chier, a defensive end, has racked up 12 sacks, a forced fumble and an interception. And quarterbacks generally know better than to throw against Peterson; the cornerback has 40 tackles this year, and a defense-leading four interceptions.
“Teams don’t go his way, they throw away from him,” Zablocki said of Peterson.
The Rockets will need big defensive contributions against the fifth-seeded Bears. While Cedar Grove, seeded No. 1 in its postseason bracket, appears to have something of an on-paper advantage in tonight’s game, Bonduel promises to bring a potent running game that should pose a worthy test of the Rockets’ defense.
Hunter Vanderlinden has averaged more than 126 yards rushing per game this season. He’s scored a dozen running touchdowns, and has been notoriously sure-handed carrying the ball — he’s fumbled just once all year on 206 carries.
Bonduel’s passing game, meanwhile, has been imbalanced next to the team’s run-first mentality, but it’s been strong when needed. Quarterback Colton Dobratz has passed for nine touchdowns and nearly 650 yards this season.
“They hit hard,” Zablocki said of Bonduel, which took fourth place in a tough Central Wisconsin Eight Conference that includes unbeaten Shiocton and defending Division 5 state champion Amherst.
The Bears run a basic Wing-T offensive formation, Zablocki said, but they’re “good at what they do.”
“You’ve got to be quick off the ball and you’ve got to be disciplined and do your job,” he said.
“They’re a very good football team,” Zablocki said. “… We’ve got to just stick to our job defensively and make sure we wrap up.”