by Randy Gregory
Rockford and Detroit Catholic Central (DCC) have only met on the gridiron two previous times. Both games were contested in high pressure situations and both ended in narrow Shamrock victories in dramatic fashion. In 1998 the Rams made their first trip to a state title contest and fell to a heavily favored Shamrock team 27-23 after grabbing a late lead. And in the 2011 Division 1 semifinals, the Rams fell 23-20 in overtime when DCC scored a touchdown in overtime after the Rams had only connected on a field goal during their possession.
The prelims are over and the main act is set to unfold as the two traditional powerhouses are now preparing for round three and another Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 1 semifinal. Battle Creek Central High School will be the venue and the kickoff is slated for 1:00 P.M. on Saturday, November 17th. The Rams (10-2) and Shamrocks (8-4) are both coming off of impressive victories in their respective regional title tilts. Rockford defeated the top-ranked team in Division 1 (Clarkston) by a score of 25-14 and DCC easily toppled Plymouth by a 28-7 count.
The Shamrocks under legendary coach Tom Mach have built their reputation on a strictly blue collar platform. They will try to pound you into submission on the strength of a power rushing attack and a defense that will normally play you straight up and bring pressure with their front line. Their 8-4 record is also exceptionally deceiving given the schedule they undertook this year. Their four losses include a pair to two nationally-ranked teams from Ohio (Cincinnati Moeller and Toledo Whitmer) and a pair to two Michigan behemoths (Orchard Lake St. Marys (OLSM) and Birmingham Brother Rice). They also topped OLSM in an earlier contest.
“They (DCC) are an impressive team physically and have solid skill players,” said Rockford coach Ralph Munger. “You know what you will get when they take the field because they will grind it out all day if you let them, but Coach Mach always has a few wrinkles he will throw at you and has always been able to adapt. They are a great program with a proud history and we will have to play exceptionally well to come out on top.”
A lot of focus will be put on the public versus private school debate in this classic contest, but Munger doesn’t place as much credence in the validity of that argument in this case as others do.
“I don’t think that they actively recruit kids to DCC,” said Munger. “The majority of the players there have a legacy connection and that is the biggest attraction for them. They certainly have the advantage of being able to pull in kids from a broad area but it is still a pretty costly endeavor to attend school there. They do offer financial aid on a FAFSA basis, but I don’t think it is strictly on an athletic basis because of the academic requirements needed for admission.”
“But by the same token we will take the field with Rockford kids,” continued Munger. “We will play with, win with and lose with Rockford kids. Our kids come up through the system and learn the Rockford way. It doesn’t matter who your parents are or how influential they are, we do things our way and we are very proud of that.”
Rockford linebacker Brent Showers voiced the opinion of many of this year’s Rams when he opined on the importance of this game.
“We are excited for the chance to get some redemption for last year’s game,” said Showers. “But it isn’t just about redemption, this game is about this year’s team and not just about what happened in prior years. They (DCC) are a great team and we look forward to the challenge.”
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