After three weeks of practice under the hot August sun, the Rockford Rams walked onto the field in front of a large crowd for their opening game August 27, at the Ted Carlson Memorial Stadium. Rockford has opened each of the last three seasons against the Davison Cardinals, and this year was the same.
Davison, having won the coin toss, elected to receive the opening kickoff. Steve Mette’s kick would go through the end zone, forcing Davison to start their first drive on their own 20 yard line. Four plays later, Davison would be forced to punt the ball to the Rams, who would start their first drive just inside Davison’s territory, at the 46 yard line. The Cardinals’ defense would limit Rockford to 16 yards on their first possession, forcing a 46 yard field goal attempt by Steve Mette. Mette split the uprights, giving the Rams an early 3-0 lead.
The Rams second possession started from their own 20, after a Davison punt went into the end zone. On the first of play of the possession, Rockford quarterback Mark LaPrairie, hit wide receiver Neil VanderLaan with a perfect pass down the left sideline. 75 yards later, VanderLaan was standing alone in the end zone.
Davison, trailing by ten, retaliated with a 30 yard field goal to complete their following drive.
Rockford countered with a 40 yard field goal by Mette after Davison turned the ball over on their own 17, giving the Rams a 13-3 lead midway through the second quarter. Again, the Rockford defense shut Davison down, forcing them to punt. The Rams’ final possession of the first half ended with a 12 yard LaPrairie pass to Zach Schmuck, putting Rockford ahead by 17 with just over three minutes remaining in the half.
Davison’s final drive saw quarterback Jake Thompson connect with Jacob Jacobs, for an 80 yard gain, placing the ball inside the Rockford five. Four plays later, Brandon Cooper plunged into the end zone with seconds left in the half, making the score 20-10.
Rockford’s final score of the evening came when Nate Sanders broke off tackle for seven yards into over the goal line, making the final score 27-10.
Following the game, coach Ralph Munger said, “This was a tough ball game. We played like it was our first game. We need to be more consistent. Once we get that, we will be a better team.”
“We got manhandled [on the line] tonight. The offensive line needs to be more physical.”
Munger went on to say, “Defensively, we made things happen.”
The Rams were dealt a blow in the second quarter, when running back Nick Smythe suffered a potentially season ending injury. Munger commented, “I feel just awful about Nick. This could be a big loss for us as a team.”
Rockford had 103 yards on the ground, with Nate Sanders leading all rushers with 60 yards on nine carries. Mark LaPrairie went 12 for 22, with 158 yards in the air. LaPrairie also had two touchdown passes.
On September 2nd, the Rams will travel down I-96 for a rare Thursday night game against Holt.
The Squire has been Rockford’s free weekly newspaper since 1871. Our loyal readership includes over fifteen thousand homes in the Rockford area, including the affluent Lakes area of Lake Bella Vista, Bostwick Lake and Silver Lake; Belmont, Blythefield, as well as Algoma, Courtland, Cannon and Plainfield Townships. The Squire is distributed through the U.S. Post Office every Thursday. We also deliver to in-town businesses and homes with paper carriers and news stands in our grocery stores and over thirty local shops.