By RANDY GREGORY
After struggling through the first two plus games of the season the Rockford offensive attack that many expected to see on display finally showed signs of life late in last week’s tough 30-24 overtime loss to Muskegon Mona Shores. That spark roared into an inferno on Friday, September 15th at Rockford as the Rams scored early and often on their way to a 51-13 pasting of the Caledonia Fighting Scots.
The win evened Rockford’s record at 2-2 on the season and more importantly it got them off on the right foot in the OK Red conference with a 1-0 record. The Rams have won eight consecutive conference crowns and always place a high premium on keeping that streak intact.
Rockford came in with the full intent of going to the air on a regular basis and they were successful to the tune of 305 yards passing and a pair of touchdowns while going 18 for 23. But the packed home side of the stadium was the first thing that caught the attention of Rockford head coach Ralph Munger.
“I first want to make sure to thank our fans for the tremendous showing of support tonight,” said Munger. “We got off to a tough start the first couple of weeks but it is a testament to this community that they still came out in droves tonight to cheer our kids on. I thought our boys really got after it tonight from the opening whistle to the end of the game. There are always going to be things you need to work on and tweak but it was a solid effort all the way around.”
The Rams wasted little time getting on the board as they marched 78 yards in 7 plays to put the first points on the board. Quarterback Jason Whittaker was 5-5 on the drive for 69 yards and capped it off with a 15-yard TD pass to Chase Novak at the 6:25 mark of the opening quarter. Novak made a couple of nice jukes to evade a pair of defenders and raced into the end zone untouched to give Rockford a 7-0 lead after Eric Zeboor boomed through the first of his six conversions.
It looked as if the Scots were in the mood to make a game of it though as they quickly returned the favor on the subsequent drive. The point after went awry however and the Rams held a 7-6 lead after the first quarter. But it was all Rockford basically from that point forward for the balance of the game.
Rockford had three possessions in the second quarter and scored touchdowns on each and every one of them to grab full control of the contest. The first drive covered 60 yards in nine plays and featured a one-yard plunge from Maliq Thompson to make it 14-6. The next one covered 50 yards in five plays and was again finished by Thompson. This time Thompson swept right before cutting back to his left while going 26 yards untouched into the end zone. The final drive of the half went 80 yards in eight plays and saw the Rams forced to overcome a penalty and a play that lost 15 yards before reaching pay dirt. This time it was a Whittaker seven-yard pass to tight end Logan Lee that made it a 27-6 came as the Rams failed to convert the point after for the only time all night. That score came with only 37.4 seconds until the half.
The second half began with a bang after the Rams received the kickoff. Junior running back Jack Richardson took the hand off on the initial play from scrimmage and bolted 62 yards up field before being dragged down. Two plays later it was Thompson again on a 14-yard TD scamper after breaking a pair of tackles along the way to make it 34-7.
Jacob Johnson picked off a pass for the Rams on the following Caledonia possession but for the only time of the ball game the Rams actually were forced to punt it back to them. Rockford returned the favor shortly thereafter by fumbling the ball back to Caledonia on a punt return and the Scots capitalized with a touchdown that briefly infused their crowd with a faint hope of making it a contest yet at 34-13 with 1:11 still to play in the third quarter.
But Rockford used a 29-yard Zeboor field goal, a 24-yard Richardson run up the gut and a 44-yard pass from Drew Bareno to Richardson to make it 51-13 and set the running clock in motion with 3:04 to play in the contest.
The only real blight on the evening was the Rams propensity for penalties in yet another contest. Rockford racked up seven penalties for 85 yards and had two other penalties that the Scots declined to accept. It was a sore spot that Munger addressed after the game.
“Somewhere along the line all of these penalties have to stop,” said Munger. “The guys know that but we still continue to commit several every game. We need to get a handle on it or it will really come back to hurt us in an important situation along the way.”
Rockford totaled 494 yards offensively for the game. Whittaker was 15-20 passing for 246 yards and a touchdown while Bareno was 3-3 for 59 yards and a TD as well. Richardson led the rushing attack with 10 carries for 126 yards while Thompson added 61 on seven carries. Jake McLean led the receiving corps with 6 catches for 108 yards while Novak added four receptions for 57 yards and Richardson completed his big day with a trio of receptions for 63 yards.
The Rams were led defensively again by senior linebacker Khale Showers with 13 tackles. Ian Rodriguez fortified the other middle linebacker slot by adding 10 of his own. Defensive linemen Cade Klimczak and Brenden Wymer also made their presence felt by adding seven tackles apiece to the Ram cause. Taylor Green also added a fumble recovery for Rockford.
Rockford returns to action this Friday, September 22nd when they host Grand Haven. Game time is slated for 7:00 P.M. at Ted Carlson Memorial Stadium.