by RANDY GREGORY
Rockford and Hudsonville faced off on Friday, October 5th at Hudsonville in a game that was dominated by the defenses of both teams for the vast majority of the contest. Rockford finally managed to push across a touchdown in both the third and fourth quarters and claimed a 14-0 triumph that kept them alone in first place in the OK Red with a 3-0 record. The Rams stand at 5-2 overall with a pair of contests left in the regular season. They also need just one more victory to qualify for the playoffs for the eighteenth consecutive season.
But despite the good things that came from Friday’s victory, Rockford coach Ralph Munger feels that there are still multiple issues facing his squad even with the four-game winning streak they are in the midst of.
“It is nice to come out of here with a win, but there are more important things than just coming out on top,” said Munger. “We have been pretty solid defensively this season so far but even today Hudsonville had a touchdown called back and had a couple of receivers get behind our secondary for potentially big plays. And offensively we have done some of the strangest things at the strangest times.”
“You could even say we have been consistent on offense this year. We consistently break down, we consistently miss assignments and we consistently commit foolish penalties. The film session this week is going to be a long one and we really need more work to determine why this continues to happen at this point of the season.”
The first half of the game ended up as a scoreless tie as both teams really struggled with establishing anything resembling continuity over the opening two quarters. For their part, the Eagles were seemingly hit in the backfield as often as they had a play that netted positive yardage. The Rockford defense continued their year long domination of the opposition’s offense with a series of devastating hits and blitzes. The Rockford offense stymied themselves with fumbles, dropped passes and inopportune penalties. But the Ram defense refused to yield and the two teams went to the locker room with the same score as when the game kicked off.
“We have a solid group of kids that work together as a unit,” said Rockford defensive coordinator Randy VanderVeen. “When they do play together they are a lot of fun to watch. It has been an eleven man process from the first game on and we need to continue to do our one-eleventh every play and we can continue to be successful.”
The Ram’s first play of the second half finally broke the ice and gave the Rams a lead they would not relinquish. It didn’t come without its perils however as the Rams had fumbled a punt that they fortuitously fell on to set the stage for the ever so brief scoring drive. Scott Kaule took a handoff off the left side of the Ram line from the Rockford 15. Kaule quickly burst into the open field and didn’t stop until crossing the Eagle goal line 85 yards later. Casey Watters drilled the extra point and it was 7-0 Rockford.
The final score of the night came on what was essentially the only sustained drive of the night for either team. Rockford took possession at their own 30-yard line and marched 70 yards in eleven plays during a drive that spanned parts of the third and fourth quarters. This time it was Kyle Short who did the honors with a one-yard quarterback sneak on a fourth-down play with 8:17 to play in the final stanza. Watters again was dead center and it was a 14-0 Ram lead that would not change over the balance of the contest.
The Rockford defense put the finishing touches on the win with two more series of dominating play that ended with the team’s second shutout of the season. Through three contests of league play the defense has given up a grand total of exactly two touchdowns (a third score came on an interception).
“We need to get the other parts of the team going besides just the defense,” said Munger. “We have had a number of injuries this season but that is just an excuse sometimes. It is an opportunity for other kids to step up and make contributions that help us improve as a team. We will take things one game at a time and work to get better on a far more regular basis.”