The Rockets would take off in the first half, seeing themselves only down by two at the beginning of the second half. However, more injuries and the Tornadoes depth would push back New Rockford-Sheyenne (2-3, 2-3 Region 2) as they would fall to Cavalier, 54-14.
This season has been unlike others for New Rockford-Sheyenne in the wrong ways. Breaking the .500 win mark since 2015, the Rockets have struggled with injury this season, putting them a game below that .500 mark heading into its final match of the regular season.
In addition to the Rockets having to deal with the injury bug, the team sat out two weeks of its season due to positive COVID-19 cases reported at the school. During those two weeks, New Rockford-Sheyenne sufficed a game to Nelson County, which has been postponed, but not rescheduled yet.
The Rockets did makeup on their postponed games on Tuesday as they hosted No. 2 Cavalier (8-0, 7-0 Region 2). The Rockets would take off in the first half, seeing themselves only down by two at the beginning of the second half. However, more injuries and the Tornadoes depth would push back New Rockford-Sheyenne (2-3, 2-3 Region 2) as they would fall to Cavalier, 54-14.
"We started off well and came into the game healthy," Rockets head coach Elliott Belquist said. "We had a couple of key guys dinged up, but that didn't matter. We're an inexperienced team. You can tell by the tackling and the playmaking just isn't there."
Despite the game falling out of the Rocket's control by halftime, New Rockford-Sheyenne came into the game red hot. After Cavalier would capitalize on a rush to the corner from quarterback Landon Carter, senior quarterback Johnny Grann began firing on all cylinders. He would finish off the drive with a 5-yard rush into the end zone and connect with senior offensive lineman Hunter Johnson for the two-point conversion.
The Tornadoes would respond off another score from Carter as the first quarter expired, but Grann would continue to capitalize on the Rockets passing game in the early second quarter. A 20-yard heave from Grann to junior wide receiver Kaden Jensen would see New Rockford-Sheyenne only down by two.
"He [Grann] was just trying to get rid of the ball quickly and get it to some receivers," Belquist said. "Cavalier made some adjustments and he just couldn't get the ball to anyone anymore."
The offensive capitalization came to a halt after Jensen's touchdown. The Rockets two-point conversion would fail and Cavalier would take over. From the second quarter on the Tornadoes outscored the Rockets 38-0, mainly off of their rushing game. While New Rockford-Sheyenne did put in a fight early, fatigue from the two weeks off began to set in.
"We got very tired and it's tough because we haven't played in a few weeks, Belquist said. "Our kids battled and I'm proud of them. That's a good team we played against and when you're asked to play them after that break is tough. Our kids battled hard, but we just don't have the firepower to hang with them for four quarters."
The key for the Rockets moving forward is to get as many players as they can healthy and have the guys who are playing to play hard. According to Belquist, 16 players are out with injury and saw two more guys go down with an injury against Cavalier. This situation has led the Rockets to lean a little more into its eighth-grade roster as the 9-12 roster is becoming thinner.
The dealing with the injury bug and having to move even deeper into its roster is something that New Rockford-Sheyenne hasn't had to deal with for a while, but they aren't panicking. In sending younger and less experienced guys out onto the field, filling spots for injured players, the coaching staff is asking for those players to put as much of an effort as they can out on the field.
"It's just a pride thing," Belquist said. "We've been a successful team the last how many years and it's just one of those years where you lose a lot of guys and you need a lot of guys stepping in. You just got to find that will to win and win every play. We've got a lot of youth out there and the kids have just got to learn."
The Rockets saw glimpses of what the younger core is capable of in the first quarter, keeping pace with the second-ranked team in the state, but the next step is putting that energy together for four quarters according to Belquist. New Rockford-Sheyenne has one more game at Dunseith on Friday in its regular-season schedule. The Dragons have struggled this season, sitting at 1-5.
"We just got to get healed up as much as we can in two days and just go play hard," Belquist said. "We're not going to change a lot of things in two days, so it's just going to be up to these guys and their will. What do they have in them and what can they do in two days to find a way to play."
Jack Williams covers Lake Region sports and general news for The Devils Lake Journal. Contact him via email at JGWilliams1@gannett.com, on Twitter @jackgwilliams or phone at 701-662-2127.