Rams lose football opener to Lowell

Injuries hamper team’s efforts 

by JIM COOPER and MATT WEAVER

The Rams attempt their signature starburst kickoff return. Photo by JIM COOPER

The last time the Rockford Rams and the Lowell Red Arrows met on the gridiron, it was November 9, 1973. The country was being rocked by the Watergate scandal. Memories of the Vietnam War were fresh in the nation’s minds. The number one song in America was Eddie Kendricks’ “Keep On Truckin’.”

High school football was still decades from being the phenomenon we know today. Rockford and Lowell combined for a total of just 105 wins in the previous 10 years.

Flash forward to August 25, 2011, and you have a game that was touted as the top opening game in Michigan. The two schools have now won over 200 games in the last decade, with three state titles apiece in the same span.

Fans from both sides had been clamoring for this game and, finally, after 38 years, the two teams collided once more.

Emotions were high at Bob Perry Field in Lowell as the two teams took the field. After deferring the opening kickoff, the Rams were successful in containing the Red Arrow’s explosive dual-threat quarterback Gabe Dean on the opening possession of the game. However, a Lowell fumble recovery on Rockford’s first play from scrimmage put the ball back in the hands of the elite player. Three plays later, Dean ran for 20 yards to the end zone, with the extra point putting the Red Arrows up 7-0.

The Rockford defense struggles to control Lowell's standout quarterback, Gabe Dean. Photo by JIM COOPER

Three-and-a-half minutes later, Dean made the Rams pay for a second lost fumble, allowing Lowell to take a 14-0 lead within the first eight minutes of the game.

After the two teams swapped possessions for the remainder of the first quarter and the first six minutes of the second, Dean struck again, this time with a 26-yard touchdown pass.

Trailing by 21, Rockford’s Connor Darby managed to break loose on the ensuing kickoff, taking the ball into the Red Arrows’ end zone. However, the play was called back due to an illegal handoff on the Rams’ tried and true starburst kickoff return formation.

The following drive ended with Rockford’s Mark LaPrairie hobbling off the field with help from the trainer. The senior quarterback suffered a dislocated toe that kept him out of action for the remainder of the game. Kyle Short took over the position.

After Lowell tacked on another touchdown, the two teams headed into the locker rooms for halftime, with the Red Arrows leading 28-0.

With Short at the helm, the Rams came out strong in the second half. On their second possession, Rockford finally managed to get on the board after an 11-yard touchdown run by running back Ryan Hartley.

The defense managed to contain Dean and the rest of Lowell’s offense, forcing a turnover on downs on the Red Arrows’ next drive. Unfortunately, the Ram offense didn’t find their way downfield on the following series.

The remainder of the game turned into a defensive battle, as neither team could manage to score again. Lowell defeated Rockford 28-7 in the 2011 season opener.

Hard-hitting sophomore linebacker Brent Showers left the game in the third quarter due to an ankle injury. The severity of the injury is currently unknown, pending the results of an MRI.

The Rams’ home opener is Thursday, Sept. 1, at Ted Carlson Memorial Stadium.

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