by RANDY GREGORY
After struggling to mount much of anything offensively in a 16-6 loss to Lowell last week, Rockford cruised to a 22-0 victory in a game played Thursday, Aug. 30 at Holt High School. Not only did Rockford never punt during the contest, the Ram defense allowed Holt only 101 yards of total offense on the night. The deepest penetration of the night for Holt was to the Rockford 46.
“Last week was like falling off of a cliff,” said Rockford coach Ralph Munger. “Now it seems like we are back on a donkey and headed up the mountain. This type of performance just reinvigorates the team and lets us see we are moving in the right direction. We were able to get another week of practice and another week of confidence with the quarterback situation. We aren’t as big this year up front as we usually are, so we are still in the infant stages of figuring out what we are as a team. But this was a nice start.”
After facing a constant barrage of defensive pressure in his first start at quarterback against Lowell last week, Austin McKellar provided a huge spark this time around with a poised performance that led Rockford up the field consistently with a series of keepers. McKellar said it was all about the efforts of everyone and not just himself that enabled the team to perform at such a high level following last week’s loss. He was also laudatory in thanking Kyle Short for his advice and encouragement.
“The offensive line and the defense came out and played a great game tonight,” said McKellar. “A lot of people really stepped it up tonight and I was just the one who benefited. As for Kyle, he is a great player and has been a huge help while I have filled in for him at quarterback. Hopefully he will be back next week and I can go back to doing what I was planning on doing coming into the year at wide receiver and as a kick returner. Coach Munger put in a great game plan that looked like I was going to carry the ball quite a bit tonight. I was just glad to be able to help the team get a win.”
Rockford took the opening kickoff and marched smartly up the field and an apparent touchdown on their opening possession. But a holding call took away the score and forced them to settle for a 24-yard field goal from Casey Watters at the 5:47 mark of the opening stanza. The next Ram possession ended with a missed field goal from 39 yards, but the Rockford defense quickly got the ball back to the offense to set the stage for the next Ram score.
This time the Rockford offense took over at the Holt 40-yard line with 4:32 to play in the opening half. Rockford moved the distance entirely on the ground with Connor Darby, Sam Reinke and McKellar getting all the carries on the nine-play drive. Darby did the honors with a one-yard burst at the :20 mark of the second quarter to reach the end zone and build on the Rockford lead. Watters added the point after, and the teams headed to the locker room with Rockford holding a 10-0 lead.
The second half was a continuation of a game-long theme. Holt gained a little yardage and punted and Rockford continued their relentless march to the Holt end zone on the first two possessions for both squads in the third quarter.
The first Rockford drive covered 80 yards and took 12 plays before Reinke went the final two off left tackle for the TD. The subsequent PAT was pushed wide right and it was a 16-0 Rockford lead. On their next possession Holt tried a fake punt on fourth down and eight at the Rockford 48-yard line. Connor Grady and Josh Olson were up to the challenge and stuffed the ill-fated fake for a two-yard loss.
Rockford had a tit for tit reply of their own on the ensuing drive. Facing a fourth down and two at the Holt 42, Munger called for a fake punt from Rockford. This fake worked a touch better as Darby raced for 10 yards and a first down. The drive culminated with a nine-yard TD pass from McKellar to Jacob Kaiser at the 4:56 point of the final quarter. The two point conversion pass fell incomplete but the Rams had a 22-0 lead they maintained till the final horn sounded.
The Rockford defense held Holt’s outstanding junior running back (Ty Glover) to 43 yards on 13 carries. Munger said that was the focus of the defense in practice leading up to the game.
“Glover is an absolute difference maker and we were determined to keep him in check,” said Munger. “We wanted to force them into throwing the ball and our defensive coaches came up with a great scheme that we executed well tonight. I have to look at the film first to see how we held up at the line of scrimmage, but there was certainly some improvement tonight.”
The Rams rushed for 248 yards as a team led by McKellar’s 107 yards on 19 carries. Darby and Reinke added 66 and 49 yards respectively on 11 carries each. McKellar only threw six passes while completing three for 21 yards. Cody Garnsey, Ethan LaCourt and Kaiser all had one reception apiece.
The unyielding Ram defense didn’t rack up the huge tackle numbers they did last week, but that was mainly due to the fact that the offense kept the ball for the vast majority of the contest. Rockford possessed the ball for just over 29 minutes and Holt had possession for just under 19 minutes. Brent Showers had six tackles to lead the way. Michael Harrigan had five and Brett Meyer and Trevor Coughlin had four apiece. Another testament to the defensive domination exhibited by Rockford was the fact that eight different Rams had a hand in tackles for loss.