by RANDY GREGORY
Coming into this season it was expected that the Rockford defense would have to carry the weight of the team early. The defense returned six starters and a few other players with extensive playing time from last year. The offense on the other hand returned only a pair of starters and a passel of question marks. That was in addition to a seemingly endless string of injuries that have permeated the offense all year long.
Factor in contests against two of the top teams in the state in Lowell and Muskegon and it appeared to be a difficult to impossible task that awaited them. But they have proven more than equal to the task. Through six games the Rockford defense has only allowed an average of 12.5 points per game to a slate of opponents that probably equivocates to that played by anyone else in the state. Top-ranked Muskegon scored the most against the Rams with 21 points. The Rockford defense has pitched one shutout with a 22-0 victory over Holt.
“We have played pretty well defensively over the course of this season so far,” said Rockford coach Ralph Munger. “Coach (Randy) VanderVeen and his staff do a wonderful job of preparing for our next opponent on a weekly basis. But we can’t rest on our laurels and expect to accomplish all of the goals we wanted to this year. We need to continue to get better on a week in and week out basis.”
Junior inside linebackers Brent Showers and Randy Garvin have led the way for Rockford through six games with 55 and 46 tackles respectively. Senior outside linebackers Jeff Baldwin and Blake McDonald have also been pivotal to the success of a stellar linebacker corps. Senior safety KC Zenner sat out the first two games after a lengthy rehab from a severe knee injury. He limped through the first two contests he played in but has somehow gutted his way to four interceptions as he fights to get back to full strength.
“Brent Showers is just a day in day out football player,” said Rockford coach Ralph Munger. “He plays the game with a passion that you can’t teach. You can add KC Zenner to that list too. Those are just two hard-nosed football players.”
Jared Johnson has also been a key contributor in the secondary for the Rams along with Connor Grady and Trevor Coughlin. Jarett Sobkowiak, Brandon Houle, Kyler Malstrom and Arnolds Ruperts have been big on the defensive line for the Rams.
But there are still several hurdles to clear for the 4-2 Rams as they wind down the regular season portion of the schedule. Hudsonville and Grandville are proud programs that have fallen on hard times recently. They would both like nothing better than to play spoiler for Rockford. And then there is the final regular season game of the year against Grand Haven that will play a pivotal role in determining if Rockford will defend their OK Red crown. The defense hasn’t rested and that portends good things going forward for Rockford.