By Randy Gregory
The Panthers of West Ottawa High School already avenged one of their two losses in the opening contest of the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Division 1 football playoffs. Grand Ledge topped West Ottawa convincingly by a score of 31-10 in the second week of the regular season. West Ottawa turned the tables by topping Grand Ledge 21-14 last Friday, October 26th in a contest that wasn’t decided until very late in the game.
The Panthers (8-2) only other loss came on September 28th when they came up short to Rockford by a 24-14 count in a game that ultimately decided the OK Red championship and procured home field for the Rams in the first two rounds of the playoffs. They would like nothing better than to not only move ahead to the regional round of the playoffs, but also allow them to gain a measure of retribution for a loss that they feel could have easily been a win.
“This is a very talented team that is coming into Rockford this week,” said Rockford coach Ralph Munger. “They have a quarterback who is being recruited by multiple Division 1 schools, including Michigan State, and two of the absolute best wide receivers in the area. If that isn’t enough, they are an extremely aggressive team defensively that is very quick to the ball. We had better be ready to play from the start because they are an exceptionally talented team.”
West Ottawa jumped out of the gate quickly in the initial contest between the two teams by returning an interception for a touchdown. Rockford scored the next ten points to take the lead but a touchdown by the Panthers inside of the final ten seconds of the first half sent them into the locker room with a 14-10 edge. Rockford took the lead late in the third quarter at 17-14 and the Rams were the beneficiary of a questionable call on a block in the back on a punt return for West Ottawa that was headed for the end zone. Instead of having a 21-17 edge midway through the final stanza, the Panthers were forced to try a long field goal that missed badly.
The Rams took advantage of the miss and quickly marched 80 yards to score a touchdown that put the game firmly under wraps. West Ottawa had some success early running the ball and connected on a few passes, but they were ultimately done in by a Ram defense that at one point forced five consecutive three and outs.
“We have to find a way to get pressure on their quarterback consistently,” said Munger. “They will try to force us into more of a wide open game and they have the athletes to do it. Offensively we have to find some consistency because they will pack eight into the box. We stalled out a couple of times against them the first time and we will have our hands full again. Our work is cut out for us in a major way.”
The game will be played Friday, November 2nd at Ted Carlson Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. and a large turnout is anticipated from both sides in a game featuring two teams that are extremely familiar with each other.