Rockford football wins playoff opener

Rams defeat West Ottawa for second time 

by TIM COOPER and MATT WEAVER

Brady Gent fends off a Panther defender. Gent had two touchdowns in his 115-yard effort. Photo by JIM COOPER

With the grueling OK Red conference schedule in the rearview mirror, the Rockford Rams began their drive to a state championship on Friday, Oct. 28. The 8-1 Rams’ first opponent in the MHSAA Division I football playoffs would be the 6-3 Panthers of West Ottawa High School. The two teams met in week four of the regular season, when Rockford defeated the Panthers 41-16.

The Rams’ opening possession started at the West Ottawa 46, following a fair catch interference penalty on the kickoff. Rockford’s powerful running attack tore through the Panther defense, with Brady Gent running the final yard for a Ram touchdown. Steve Mette’s extra point gave Rockford an early 7-0 lead.

Following the kickoff, West Ottawa went on a 15-play march down the field. The Panthers, typically a pass-oriented team, used a ground attack to move the ball down field, before the Ram defense stiffened, forcing the Panthers to settle for a field goal from the Rockford seven-yard line. Mette put the Rams up by seven again with a 34-yard field goal of his own to cap off a 7:42 drive by the Ram offense.

West Ottawa proved their quick strike capability when quarterback Trevor VanTubbergen found wide receiver Ato Condelee for a 30-yard touchdown pass, making the score 10-10 with 5:06 left in the first half. VanTubbergen ended the night 8-11 with 72 yards and one touchdown.

Anthony DeDamos intercepts Panther quarterback Trevor VanTubbergen. Photo by JIM COOPER

With just over two minutes remaining in the second quarter, the Rockford defense forced a fumble at the Panther 42. The Rams took advantage of the mistake by the Panthers when five plays later, Gent broke through the West Ottawa defense for his second touchdown of the night. Gent finished the night with 115 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns.

Both defenses stepped up in the second half, with neither team scoring.

With the 17-10 victory, the Rams advance to the district finals, where they will face CAAC Blue champion Grand Ledge. The Comets advanced by defeating Grand Haven 21-14. The two teams will face off at the Ted this Friday night at 7 p.m.

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