by RANDY GREGORY
Last year produced a less-than-desirable result for the Rockford football team when they ventured to Lowell and were thoroughly dominated by the Red Arrows en route to a 28-7 loss. This time around the venue changes to Ted Carlson Memorial Stadium in Rockford with the opening kickoff slated for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 23. The teams hadn’t met in decades prior to last year’s contest, but both have since developed into perennial powers in different classes in the state of Michigan in the interim.
Lowell advanced all the way to the Division II Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) finals before falling to Birmingham Brother Rice. The Rams were able to push the reset button on their season and didn’t drop another game until falling in the MHSAA Division I semifinals to Detroit Catholic Central (23-20 in overtime).
On paper it appears that both squads will enter the fray with similar amounts of returning starters offensively and defensively. Rockford returns six starters defensively and two offensively. The Red Arrows return six starters defensively and one offensively.
Rockford coach Ralph Munger had the opportunity not only to view highlights of last year’s game but the preseason scrimmage Lowell partook in last week. He came away very impressed and realizes that the Rams will have their hands full.
“Lowell will be a factor when the playoffs roll around,” said Munger. “They just reload every year no matter who they graduate. Their new quarterback looks like he can throw the football pretty well and they really get after it on defense. It will be the same type of team Lowell puts on the field every year.”
Rockford made multiple mistakes last year versus the Red Arrows and Lowell was able to take advantage of nearly every miscue in jumping out to a huge first-half lead. Rockford had a pair of touchdowns called back, several penalties on special teams and more than a few dropped passes, bad snaps and fumbles. Despite that, Munger says there will be no changes in preparing for the opener.
“The game plan was solid; we just didn’t execute,” said Munger. “We got outcoached and the kids got outplayed. We let their rush get to us defensively and they outfoxed us on their formations offensively. It was basically about a dozen plays that were decisive in the outcome. We just need to eliminate all of the mistakes.”
The game will be a clash between schools that are neighbors in proximity and peers in accomplishments on the gridiron. Orange-and-black-clad Ram fans and red-and-black-clad Red Arrow fans will flood the vast expanse of “The Ted” on Thursday. To borrow a phrase from Michael Buffer: “Let’s get ready to rumble!”