Friday Night Lights Experience—Week 9: Rockford Rams vs. Jenison Wildcats

Alone at the top 


Dave Mitchell

It seems like only yesterday pre-season two-a-day practices were starting and the question around many communities was whether or not their local high school football team would rise to the occasion and make the playoffs. And even better, would they be good enough to hoist the coveted state championship trophy in the end?

Fast forward to October 21 and the last regular season game of the year. Dreams are ending as some teams fail to make the playoffs, while other dreams are just beginning as the playoffs are just around the corner. Tonight, the Friday Night Lights Experience (FNLE) headed to David McKenzie Stadium, as the Jenison Wildcats hosted the rival Rams from Rockford. The Rams looked to finish the season with a win and capture the outright championship of the OK Red conference. While on the other side of the ball, the Wildcats were looking to play the role of spoiler and hand the Rams their first conference loss.

Drew Kerr

As we enter Wildcat country, the feel of parking shouldn’t be a problem. The lack of Wildcat support for Friday’s game would only make our access easier. The Wildcats have endured a rough season and had only notched two wins up to this point. Even with an abundance of parking options available, we did notice one feature that Jenison took advantage of that made the Wildcats stand out on our FNLE ranking. The host Wildcats had shuttle access available to the gate for anyone needing assistance for Friday night’s game.

Passing through the gates into David McKenzie Stadium, we notice that the overall atmosphere seemed a bit subdued and also lacked the energy and emotion that typically comes from a Rockford-versus-Jenison game, especially since these two teams have been regularly doing battle since 1972. This is a stadium that was built to host nothing short of the best and it shows. The facility is amazing, but the lack of pre-game activities gave us the feeling that this was a community that was ready for the season to come to an end, to try to determine what went wrong and start fresh again next season.

The cold fall air and clear night provided the perfect backdrop for football as the Rams and Wildcats took the field. After the Rams quickly showed their fans that this would not be a letdown game by scoring three quick touchdowns and taking a 21-0 lead, we decided it was time to take on our next phase of the FNLE scoring by attacking the concession stand. Due to the light crowd and the access to choose from two separate concession stands, our wait for Friday’s meal wouldn’t be long. After gorging ourselves on one-dollar hot dogs, we waddled back to our seats to make sure we wouldn’t miss the halftime entertainment.

As the second quarter came to an end with the Rams ahead 35-0, the Wildcat fans were definitely up for something to cheer about; enter the band. The fans gave the band a standing ovation and remained on their feet throughout the band’s performance. Short of the Rockford band’s performance at homecoming, this was by far the best we have seen in all our travels this year. With lots of color and precision movements around the field, this whole display seemed very theatrical. Way to go, Wildcat band!

Try as they might, on this night the small Jenison crowd and loyal student body couldn’t cheer their team to a victory. The first-half deficit was just too big, as the Rams rolled to a 35-0 win. The Rams are now the outright OK Red champs, and we at FNLE couldn’t be more proud. Way to go, Rams!

Our Rating: 8.2—Parking: 9.5; Pre-game Activities 6; Facilities* 9; Concessions* 8; Student Body* 8; Halftime Show 9; Atmosphere 7.5.

FNLE will not be reporting the first or second round of playoffs due to scheduling, but we will pick up where we left off if the Rams continue their journey forward to Ford Field.

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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.