By Randy Gregory
Rockford has beaten the odds all season long as they moved along to not only an OK Red title, but district and regional titles as well. Massive personnel turnover and an incredible slate of injuries were only a few of the issues facing the 2012 version of Rockford football. But that all came crashing to a halt on Saturday, November 17th at Battle Creek Central High School against the Shamrocks of Detroit Catholic Central (DCC). The Shamrocks jumped out in front early and were headed on their way to a 35-6 triumph over Rockford.
With the win the Shamrocks advanced to the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Division 1 championship game at Ford Field in Detroit on Saturday, November 24th at 1:00 P.M. Rockford, on the other hand, fell for third consecutive year in the semifinals. This year wasn’t quite as disappointing as the last two seasons when the Rams lost on the final play of the game both previous occasions. The Shamrocks were dominant defensively for most of the contest and exploited the perimeter of the Ram defense with counters, quarterback keeps and the occasional deep pass.
“They (DCC) were on their ‘A’ game today and we obviously struggled,” said Rockford coach Ralph Munger. “It hurts to say it, but they dominated all three phases of the game. They beat us on offense, defense and special teams. We hope to get back and play them again but you just never know what is going to happen as you try to fight your way through the playoffs.”
It appeared as if it would be a contest early on as the teams traded scores in the first and early in the second quarter. The Shamrocks got on the board first with a 14-yard touchdown pass with 4:39 remaining in the first quarter. The point after made it 7-0 but the Rams had an immediate response. Scott Kaule was the workhorse as the Rams marched 87 yards in ten plays. Kaule ripped off runs of 41 and 20 yards before capping things off with a one-yard plunge at the 11:50 mark of the second quarter. But as has been an issue lately, the Rams misfired on the point after and it was a narrow 7-6 Shamrock lead.
It didn’t take long for the Shamrocks to answer unfortunately. The Shamrocks caught the ensuing kickoff at their own 18 and never looked back until the returner crossed the goal line 82 yards later. Just like that it was a 14-6 DCC lead and the margin would do nothing but widen as the game progressed.
The Rams would seemingly get into position to make a play but they were thwarted at every turn. They would pin the Shamrocks deep and force a punt or get a first down or two and cross midfield but it wasn’t enough. The Shamrocks would routinely blast 60 and 70 yard punts or sack Kyle Short to force difficult down and distance for Rockford.
The Shamrocks got on the board late in the first half after a 49-yard pass put them into position. The two-yard plunge made it a 21-6 DCC lead and the writing was on the wall. The second half was total domination by the Shamrocks as they completely bottled up the Ram offense and continually got to the edge of the Rockford defense for long gainers. The clock gradually counted down the time and the end mercifully came with DCC in position to add even more to their lead.
“Our kids really tried to hang in there, but they exposed every one of our weaknesses today,” said Munger. “We are very proud of their efforts and celebrate all of their accomplishments. It was difficult at times when only two-thirds of your roster is able to play, but the kids never quit.”
With the loss, the Rams season ends at 10-3 and though they bid farewell to a number of standout seniors Munger is also looking forward to next season.
“We have several juniors who were part of the mainstream of this team,” said Munger. “Not many, but they and several of their classmates will be the ones we look to for leadership next year. Every year brings it’s challenges, but also brings hope. We have kids who work hard in the off season, work hard in the weight room and work hard in the classroom. When you succeed at this level you either have special talent or a special team. This year we had a special team that worked together to make a special season. Now we will see what next year will bring.”