by RANDY GREGORY
Having faced off with the top two teams in the state in Division 2 (Lowell and Muskegon) over the first three weeks of the regular season, Rockford got a relative breather on Friday, September 14th at Jenison. Save for three lost fumbles, the Rams scored early and often, en route to an overwhelming 52-18 triumph over the Wildcats that moved their record to 2-2 through the non-league portion of the schedule.
“I thought it was a case of two teams just banging away at each other,” said Rockford coach Ralph Munger. “It is always nice to be able to reward a lot of kids with some playing time for all of the hard work they do on a daily basis in practice. Our second and third-teamers were instrumental tonight. Not only did they get to play, they played very well, which was very gratifying for us as coaches. But those fumbles have got to stop. I am not happy and never will be happy with not taking care of the ball. We have some backs who will understand over the course of the coming week just how important it is to value the football.”
Rockford managed to amass double digit points in all four quarters behind a relentless ground attack. The lead stood at 24-0 Rockford at the half as the Rams dominated every facet of the game over the opening 24 minutes. Casey Watters hit a 27-yard field goal to open the scoring and Austin McKellar added a four-yard burst to make it 10-0 after the first quarter. Sam Reinke and Scott Kaule added TD runs of one and 14 yards respectively to make it 24-0 Rockford at the half. Both Reinke and Kaule topped 100 yards on the ground to lead the Rams. Watters hit all three first half extra points for Rockford to round out the scoring.
The Wildcats scored touchdowns the first two times they had the ball in the second half to cut the lead to 24-12 and give hope to the home partisans for an ever so brief time. Unfortunately for Jenison, all the scores did was wake up a Ram offense that had gone dormant coming out of the locker room. On their next three possessions the Rams went 58 yards in three plays, 35 yards in one play and 60 yards in seven plays for touchdowns. Jenison managed one TD in the midst of the onslaught to show a touch of resilience, but it was 45-18 Rockford and the game was, for all intents and purposes, over. Connor Darby got the first TD on a 30-yard run, Kaule the second from 35, and McKellar the third from ten yards. Drake Strehl was perfect on all three points after and extended his streak to four with another conversion following a Steve Lockwood jaunt to paydirt from ten yards out late in the contest.
“It was just a beautiful night for football and we got some excellent play out of our special teams tonight,” said Munger. “We are still growing and still learning but I saw some things I have been waiting for tonight. I also thought Chase Hankins had a nice game as well at quarterback for us tonight. I was a little surprised to see the success Jenison had on us moving the ball in the third quarter tonight. Randy (VanderVeen) and his staff will look at the films and figure out what the issue was there. But that doesn’t detract from a lot of the positive things we showed today.”
Reinke led the ground attack with 137 yards on 14 carries. Kaule and Darby chipped in with 102 on nine and 59 on seven carries respectively. Darian Vaughn added 45 yards on seven attempts with some hard running late. With the success of the ground game the Rams went to the air infrequently. They were four of seven for 48 yards. Hankins showed the way by going three of four for 36 yards. Devin Jager, Nick Simms, Zach Sargent and Dylan Postma all had one reception apiece.
For a change of pace the outside linebackers paced the defensive charts for Rockford. Jeff Baldwin led the way with 10 tackles and Blake McDonald added eight. Brent Showers also had a fine game with seven stops. KC Zenner grabbed his first interception of the campaign and Ryan Donley blocked a Jenison point after attempt as well.