Rams district champs
With his team trailing 13-7 at halftime, Coach Ralph Munger had one question for his players: “Is this how you want your season to end?”
The Rams, who had sputtered throughout the first half, opened the second half with a resounding “No” when Zach Schmuck returned the kickoff to the Rockford 40-yard line.
The Rams’ Brady Gent put an exclamation point on that “No!” when he broke through the middle of the Panther defense, and raced 58 yards before being caught at the West Ottawa 2-yard line. Two plays later, Gent crashed through the defense and stumbled over the goal line to put the Rams ahead, 14-13.
Though Gent has been there all year, he seemingly came out of nowhere against West Ottawa, as he exploded through the Panther line consistently. He racked up 152 yards on 17 carries, most of which occurred during the second half. Gent had three second-half touchdowns.
Munger had high praise for the running back. “Gent’s a great young player. He works hard every day, and he did what is expected of all our players.”
The defense also answered “No!” by limiting the Panthers to 77 yards in the second half.
“We had terrible field position in the second half,” West Ottawa Coach Jim Caserta commented. “We couldn’t get out of our own end.”
The Rams’ final, “No!” came when Mark LaPrairie, deep in West Ottawa territory, found Neil VanderLaan for a 17-yard touchdown pass, giving the Rams a 35-13 lead, and the pair’s second touchdown of the night. The first was 49-yard strike for the Rams’ only score of the first half.
This victory provided Rockford with its 11th district championship, and their sixth of the last seven years. By winning the district, the Rams advance to the regional final game against the Howell Highlanders, to be held at the Ted Carlson Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 13 at 1 p.m. The Highlanders advanced by defeating Holt 29-7.
Ram fans should note that the annual craft fair will also be held at the high school, so parking at or near the Ted will be at a premium.