Rams win defensive battle, remain undefeated

The Ram defense smothers the Bucs’ ball carrier. 

 

The Ram defense smothers the Bucs’ ball carrier. Photo by TONY ANDERSON

by TONY ANDERSON

Friday night, Sept. 25, the Rockford Rams hosted the Grand Haven Buccaneers for the lead of the OK Red conference. The estimated 12,000 fans witnessed a defensive contest.

The Bucs won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. Rockford’s Zach Schmuck returned the opening kick to the 40-yard line, but after three straight runs, the Rams were forced to punt. Paul Mudgett’s punt went to the Grand Haven 18-yard line.

The Rockford defense forced a three-and-out and a punt, which went 72 yards, and the Rams took over on their 19-yard line. Rockford picked two first downs on Taylor Masiewicz’s passes, but stalled on the 40-yard line and had to punt. Though Mudgett appeared to be roughed on the kick, the refs called the punt “tipped,” allowing the contact, and the Bucs took possession on the 38-yard line.

Neil VanderLaan catches Ryan Darby's pass. Photo TONY ANDERSON

Neil VanderLaan catches Ryan Darby's pass. Photo TONY ANDERSON

The Ram defense stood fast and almost intercepted a pass on third and six, and forced a punt.

Rockford took over on the 37-yard line, and picked one first down on a Masiewicz pass, but stumbled and was forced to punt. Grand Haven took over on the 10-yard line.

As the first quarter came to an end, the score was

tied at 0.

The second quarter saw the Bucs with a second-and-seven, and the Rams defense stopped them a yard short, forcing a third-and-one. The Bucs, aided by a bad spot, picked up the first down. Then Grand Haven attempted a pass play, and the Rams’ defense was called for defensive pass interference—the flag coming several seconds after the play was over. On the same drive, the Rams picked up a defensive encroachment, but the Rams still forced a fourth-and-one on the seven-yard line. The Buc quarterback tried to draw the defense offside with a great hard count, but the defense stood still.

Neil VanderLaan catches Ryan Darby's pass. Photo TONY ANDERSON

Neil VanderLaan catches Ryan Darby's pass. Photo TONY ANDERSON

Grand Haven managed to pick up the first down on the next play. The Ram defense stood firm, forcing a fourth and inches from the one-yard line. The defense—led by Brett Egnatuk, Joe Stefanski and Josh Pribble—stopped the Bucs’ ball carrier, forcing the ball over on downs.

The Rams began in the shadow of their goal post and just managed to avoid a safety on first down. On second down, Masiewicz called his own number and rushed for 47 yards. The Rams’ offense stumbled, Rockford was forced to punt, and Grand Haven took over on the 18-yard line.

The Bucs were content to let time expire on the first half with the score still knotted at 0.

The second half kickoff went into the end zone, giving the Bucs the ball on the 20-yard line. The Grand Haven offense was flagged for a hold and a false start, giving them a third-and-15 from the 15-yard line. Unable to pick up the 15, they had to punt, and Rockford took over in the Buc terrority on the 43-yard line.

Rockford alum Dave "Chip" Mitchell is named honorary captain. Photo TONY ANDERSON

Rockford alum Dave "Chip" Mitchell is named honorary captain. Photo TONY ANDERSON

The Rockford offense was flagged for a false start and then gave a sack for a loss of 14 yards, forced to punt. The punt was fumbled by the Buc receiver and recovered by Rockford’s Egnatuk on the Grand Haven 28-yard line.

The Ram offense took two plays to get into the end zone. First was a pass to Joe Johnson, who took it to the five-yard line, and the second play saw Ryan Darby take it the final five yards on the ground for a Rockford touchdown, with Mudgett adding the point after.

Grand Haven took over on the 20-yard line after a Mudgett touchback. The Bucs seemed to have a drive mounted after a huge run, but the Ram defense once again forced a punt after sacking the Grand Haven quarterback. The Rams took over on the 18-yard line.

The Rockford offense mixed the runs and passes, picking a first down on a run, then a pass, and then another on a pass interference on Grand Haven. The Ram offense kept the drive moving when Darby seemed to be running an end around, but instead hit Neil VanderLaan on a pass play. VanderLaan took the ball to the one-yard line.

An offense penalty took the ball back 10 yards, and the Ram offense’s next play saw Johnson catch a Masiewicz pass for a touchdown. The play included excellent ball fakes by the Ram running backs and quarterback, fooling not only the Buc defense but the 12,000 in attendance. Mudgett added the point after, and Grand Haven once again took over on the 20-yard line after another Mudgett touchback.

Grand Haven, feeling the pressure, started to move the ball up the field, but once again the Rockford defense forced them to punt. The third quarter came to close with the score at Rockford 14, Grand Haven 0.

The fourth quarter saw the Rams on the 20-yard line, but the Rockford offense was forced to punt. Grand Haven took over on the 40-yard line.

The Ram defense was not done and forced the Bucs into a fourth-and-six. The Ram defense did not allow the Bucs to pick it up. Over on downs, it was Rockford’s ball on their 40-yard line.

The Rams tried to eat at the clock but were forced to punt, and Grand Haven took possession on their 45-yard line. The Bucs saw a Ram defense not willing to give in, and once again turned the ball over on downs. Rockford took over on the 40-yard line.

The banner says it all. Photo TONY ANDERSON

The banner says it all. Photo TONY ANDERSON

Tyler Garnsey picked up a first down on a pass from Masiewicz, and Masiewicz picked another on the ground to seal the game—Rockford just had to kill the last 38 seconds in any coach’s favorite formation, the victory formation.

Masiewicz was 12-19 for 105 yards passing, and led the Ram ground attack with 58 yards. VanderLaan led the Rockford receivers with 41 yards. The Ram defense was led by Egnatuk with 12 tackles—seven were solo—and Stefanski with nine tackles—five were solo.

The Rams control their own destiny and now sit alone atop the conference. Rockford will welcome the 4-1 Panthers of Holland West Ottawa this Friday, Oct. 2 at 7 p.m.

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