Huge special team plays key 24-10 Ram victory over East Kentwood

Photo by Miles Postema

By RANDY GREGORY

In what has been an all to common theme to the 2017 football season, Rockford struggled offensively for the majority of the contest when they squared off with East Kentwood on Friday, October 13th at Rockford. But a pair of special team game changing plays, along with a stout defensive effort, keyed a come from behind 24-10 win for Rockford that moved the team to 5-3 overall and 4-1 in OK Red play.

Photo by Miles Postema

Both of the key special team plays took place in the third quarter and helped spur Rockford to rouse from their slumber and turn a 10-7 deficit into a 17-10 lead in the span of just over seven minutes. The first big play was a 40-yard field goal from senior kicker Eric Zeboor that tied things up at 10-10 with 7:45 to play in the quarter. The booming kick would easily have been good from at least another 10 yards and seemed to infuse a little life into a Ram squad that was trudging along at that juncture. The next big play was more stunning in the monumental shift in momentum it provided for both squads and the large homecoming crowd that was congregated on the Rockford side of the field. East Kentwood had recovered a Rockford fumble at the Ram 20 with the game tied at 10-10 late in the third quarter. They managed to get to the Ram 5 before the defense stiffened and forced the Falcons into a 26-yard field goal attempt that would have given them a 13-10 lead with less than a minute left in the third stanza. But as the ball was snapped senior defensive back Chase Novak burst around the left side of the line and cleanly blocked the kick. The ball bounced high into the air before being scooped up by fellow senior Marcus Remtema who bolted from the pack and sped untouched into the end zone following the 78-yard return with only 39 seconds to play in that period. That play turned a potential 13-10 Falcon lead into a 17-10 Rockford lead in one fell swoop and gave Rockford an energy level they would never relinquish on their way to the win.

“We came up with several big plays when our backs were seemingly against the wall on key occasions tonight,” said Rockford coach Ralph Munger. “Maliq Thompson and Jack Richardson gave great effort and ran hard all game long offensively. Eric (Zeboor) not only made that field goal but he also had a great pooch punt that really pinned them deep in their own end late in the game. And defensively we had tremendous showings from multiple players. Khale Showers, Ian Rodriguez and Paul Reinke all played excellent games from their linebacker positions. And Cade Klimczak and Alex Tramontin were very good on the defensive line.”

But there were a few things that left Munger concerned moving forward in the 2017 season.

Photo by Miles Postema

“We are working very hard on trying to make the transition from practice to the games more in rhythm. But for whatever reason we are having trouble in the games running plays that have been staples of our offense for years. We tried to mix things up and keep East Kentwood off balance but it just wasn’t consistently there tonight. We may still get there and this is a team that works hard but we still have a long way to go to get where we want to be. And despite how well the defense has played most of the year we also seem to have a tendency to give up big plays when we have the opponent in third down and long plays. But we will keep at it and give it our best shot going forward.”

The first score of the game came at the 10:57 mark of the second quarter on a 1-yard TD run from Thompson as he plowed in over the left side fairly easily. Zeboor’s first PAT of the night made it a 7-0 Rockford lead at that point. But East Kentwood came back with a 25-yard field goal and a one-yard touchdown plunge with under 35 seconds to play in the half to take a 10-7 lead into the locker room.

The Rams got the aforementioned plays from Zeboor, Novak and Remtema to take the 17-10 lead after the third quarter. The final score of the game came immediately after Zeboor pinned the Falcons at their own 5 with a perfectly placed punt late in the contest. Rockford took over at their own 39 after forcing a quick punt from East Kentwood to begin the final scoring drive. Richardson ripped off a pair of runs that netted 14 yards before Thompson ran over, around and through multiple Falcon defenders on his way to a 40-yard burst that gave Rockford a first and goal at the East Kentwood 4-yard line. Three plays later it was Thompson again from six yards out for the touchdown and Zeboor’s point after made it 24-10 with only 45 seconds to play in the game.

Thompson led Rockford with 121 yards on 21 carries while Richardson added 61 on 12 carries. The Ram passing attack featured only single completion for negative three yards.

The Rams were led defensively Remtema, Rodriguez and Showers who all totaled eight tackles. Cade Klimczak added six from his defensive tackle position to play a major role for a Ram defense that surrendered only 182 yards for the game.

Photo by Miles Postema

Next up for Rockford is the regular season finale against Hudsonville at home on Friday, October 20th. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 P.M. and there are several factors in play for Rockford. A win would move their record to 6-3 overall and leave them at 5-1 in OK Red action. That would automatically qualify Rockford for their 23rd consecutive trip to the Michigan High School Athletic Association playoffs. They could still mathematically sneak in with only five wins but would much prefer to win and force the issue without relying on point differentials and strength of schedule. If the Rams win and Grandville can pull off a win against West Ottawa, Rockford would also extend their OK Red championship streak to nine consecutive years. Those results would leave Rockford, West Ottawa and Grandville all knotted up at 5-1 apiece.