by TONY ANDERSON
The last time the Rockford Rams met the Holt Rams was the 2007 district playoffs in Holt, where Holt edged the Rams of Rockford in a shootout. This year, the Holt Rams came to Rockford on Thursday, Sept. 3, and are regarded by many as one of the best in the state. Holt won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, giving Rockford the opening kick—on their new turf.
Ryan Darby returned that kick to the 43-yard line. Rockford’s Taylor Masiewicz came out throwing, hitting Chris Wierengo for 13 yards. Masiewicz missed on his second pass, but found Zach Haugen for eight yards. Masiewicz’s next pass bounced off a Rockford receiver and was intercepted by Holt and returned to the Rockford 40-yard line.
The Rockford Ram defense rose to the occasion and forced Holt to punt after three plays, resulting in negative three yards. The punt went down to the Rockford two-yard line.
Joey Johnson ran the ball the first two plays, resulting in three- and one-yard runs. On third down, the Rams turned to Ryan Darby, who picked up six yards and a first down.
After a penalty it was first and 15 to go. Johnson ran four yards, then Zach Schmuck hit for seven more. Then Masiewicz hit Wierengo for a first-down pass.
The Rams got another false-start penalty, and Neil VanderLaan picked up nine yards before another false-start penalty.
Darby picked up a Ram first down the next play. Masiewicz called his own number and ran for three yards. On a pass play, Masiewicz hit Matt Karamol, who dashed to the 12-yard line. Darby finished the last 12 yards on the next play, and Paul Mudgett added the point after.
The kickoff from Mudgett was almost out of the end zone, resulting in Holt starting on the 20-yard line. The Rockford Rams forced another Holt punt that only went to the 47-yard line. Johnson ran six yards and then Masiewicz ran to the 15-yard line.
The final play of the first quarter saw Schmuck being hit in the back field, netting a seven-yard loss. At the end of 15 minutes of play, the score was Rockford 7, Holt 0.
The second quarter got off to a great start with Johnson taking a 15-yard pass from Masiewicz, and a three-yard run for a first down.
The Rams were then shut down, and Mudgett came in and hit a 20-yard field goal. The kick off from Mudgett was out of the end zone, resulting in a touchback, and Holt starting on the 20-yard line.
Holt seemed to have a shimmer of momentum after a huge pass play on a third down, but fumbled the next play on the 10-yard line. Jason Kester scooped up the fumble and returned to the 28-yard line.
Feeling the energy, the Rams’ offense ripped off a big run, but the ball was knocked free and recovered by Holt. The defense did not allow themselves to be brought down, and stood tall, forcing Holt to attempt a 34-yard field goal—the ball went wide right.
Rockford ran the ball three straight times, ending with fourth-and-four with 43 seconds left in the half. Mudgett came in and punted to the 40-yard line. Holt had 60 yards to go and 36 seconds to do it. The defense had all Holt receivers covered, forcing the quarterback to run, which ate valuable time. Holt decided to allow the first time to expire. At the half, the score was Rockford 10, Holt 0.
The second-half opening kickoff saw Mudgett put it out of the end zone again, resulting in a touchback. Holt hit on a massive play and then their quarterback ran for a touchdown.
The Holt kick to Rockford saw a Rockford “starburst” and Nick Smythe rumbling to the 36-yard line. Schmuck then rushed to the 14-yard line and two plays later finished the final nine yards. Mudgett added the point after.
Holt saw the Ram defense once again rise up. On third down, Holt tried a play that was all to familiar to the Rockford defense, who sniffed out the attempted “wrap draw” and forced a punt. The Rockford offense stumbled and had to punt after three plays, ending in a touchback.
Holt hit a huge run and seemed to march, getting down to the 15-yard line. However, Haugen broke a pass play and Joe Stefanski hammered the Holt quarterback, forcing Holt to kick a field goal. The Holt kick was on the ground and picked up by Landon Dubes, who returned it to the 31-yard line. Schmuck ran for six yards and Tyler Pratt grabbed a deflected Masiewicz pass for a first down. Schmuck ran again for two more yards.
The next play saw Josh Pribble catching a Masiewicz pass, which resulted in a 54-yard touchdown; Mudgett added the extra point.
Holt started the next drive on the 19-yard line, and Ethan Henderson grabbed the loose ball on the second play to put Rockford’s ball on the 21-yard line. Darby rushed for five yards as the third quarter came to a close, with the score at Rockford 24, Holt 10.
The first play of the fourth quarter saw Darby run the final 16 yards for a Rockford touchdown. Mudgett added the point after and then kicked off through the end zone, resulting in a touchback. Holt was forced to punt after three plays by a stingy Rockford defense.
Rockford started at the 37-yard line. After Haugen picked up 36 yards, the Rockford Rams had to kick a field goal, a 43-yarder by Mudgett, who kicked off through the back of the end zone—end result: a touch back.
Holt, feeling the time slipping away from them, started to drive and was helped by a personal foul. Rockford’s defense rose to the challenge and faced a punt. Rockford started at the two-yard line with just over two minutes left. The Rams’ running backs tried to chew up yards and clock, but Holt got the ball back at the 37-yard line, with only 35 seconds remaining. The Rockford defense watched as the clock hit all zeros to close out the game with a score of Rockford Rams 34, Holt Rams 10.
Masiewicz completed nine of 11 pass attempts for 144 yards. Karamol led Rockford receivers with 49 yards, Darby led the rushers with 96 yards, and Stefanski led the defense with nine tackles (three solo). The Rockford Rams next host Hudsonville on Friday, Sept. 11 at 7 p.m.