By RANDY GREGORY
On a night where the ground game struggled for the vast majority of the evening, Rockford took to the air with tremendous success on a regular basis en route to a 37-14 win over Hudsonville on Friday, October 20th at Ted Carlson Memorial Stadium in Rockford. Despite rushing for a grand total of only 59 yards, the passing attack went 8 for 14 for 184 yards and a trio of touchdowns to fuel the playoff clinching victory for the Rams.
The news wasn’t all good on the evening though as West Ottawa defeated Grandville 34-18 to clinch first place alone in the OK Red. It was the first time since 2008 that the Rams haven’t clinched at least a share of the crown and brought that run to an end at eight consecutive seasons. The win left the Rams at 6-3 overall and 5-1 in league play. More importantly though was the fact that the sixth win cemented the 23rd consecutive trip to the Michigan High School Athletic Association playoffs for Rockford. It is also the 24th trip to the postseason in 26 years at Rockford for head coach Ralph Munger in his legendary coaching career for the Rams.
“I thought we executed much better offensively tonight than we have been,” said Munger. “There is always going to be room for improvement but we got more guys involved in the passing game tonight and that was very encouraging. The first two series offensively tonight were textbook in their efficiency and set the tone for a very good showing by the team tonight. There are a lot of players over the years who have worked tremendously hard to keep that playoff streak alive and I hope this team also takes a lot of pride in keeping that run going.”
Munger was also quick to credit a pair of Rams with a solid effort to help key the victory.
“Marcus Remtema came up big tonight for us on both sides of the ball. He (Remtema) is a very talented player and when he makes exciting or electrifying plays it raises the spirits of the whole team. I also though Jason Whittaker led the team very well while showing a lot of poise and executing at a high level. This was one of the best games of Jason’s career and he showed great leadership.”
The large home crowd was treated to a pair of scores from the Rams before six minutes had run off the clock. The first drive went only three plays and featured a 16-yard strike from Whittaker to Remtema that helped set up the scoring play. On first down from the Hudsonville 49 Whittaker hit Jake McLean on a crossing route from left to right over the middle. McLean caught the ball in stride and sped up the right side untouched into the end zone to give Rockford a quick 6-0 lead with 11:03 still showing on the clock in the opening quarter. Eric Zeboor added the point after and Rockford had a quick 7-0 lead.
The Rams forced a quick three and out defensively and Chase Novak returned the ensuing punt to the Rockford 47 to set the Rams up in excellent field position. This possession took only six plays and ended in another chunk play for Rockford. On third down and four form the Eagle 37-yard line Remtema took an end around speeding around the right side and turned on the burners while speeding past the Eagle defense to the end zone with 6:16 still to play in the opening quarter to give Rockford a 14-0 lead after Zeboor’s second PAT.
Rockford bogged down for the remainder of the half in large part because they didn’t see the ball much. Hudsonville mounted a drive that covered 66 yards while encompassing 16 plays that ate up most of the clock in the second quarter. Hudsonville converted three separate fourth down plays on the drive before finally scoring with 52.7 seconds to play in the half on, you guessed it, a fourth and goal play from the Ram 2-yard line.
That made it a 14-7 game as the half came to an end. Despite being dominated for the majority of the half, Hudsonville found themselves down only a score as the two teams headed to the locker room.
But the hopeful attitude quickly evaporated for Hudsonville as Rockford capitalized on an Eagle error to score a quick touchdown and grab firm control of the contest. After receiving the second half kickoff, the Eagles got absolutely nowhere and were forced into punting formation in three plays. An errant snap on the play resulted in a loss of eight yards and left Rockford at the Eagle 17.
Facing a third down and six play at the Hudsonville 13 Whittaker rolled left and lofted a perfectly thrown ball to senior tight end Logan Lee. Lee caught the ball in stride in the left side of the end zone for the TD and it was 21-7 Rockford following Zeboor’s third conversion with still 8:58 left to play in the third quarter. Zeboor added a 38-yard field goal on Rockford’s next possession to make it a 24-7 Rockford lead.
Whittaker added another TD early in the final quarter on a one-yard sneak to make it 30-7 and send a large portion of the Eagle faithful towards the exits. Drew Bareno came on at quarterback for Rockford on the next possession and continued the aerial assault for the Rams. Bareno set up a quick bubble screen to McLean on a third down and 13 play from the Ram 44. McLean caught the ball on the left side before speeding up the middle of the field untouched for the 56-yard scoring play to make it a 37-7 Rockford lead with 8:07 left in the game.
A late Hudsonville score made it appear a little more competitive on the scoreboard but the game eventually ended with the Rams on top 37-14.
Whittaker was 6 for 11 passing for 121 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Bareno was 1 for 2 for 56 yards and a touchdown. McLean led the receiving corps for the Rams with three receptions for 126 yards. Remtema had an impact in every facet of the game for Rockford as he led the team in rushing with 37 yards on a single carry. He also had a pair of receptions for 30 yards. And to cap things off, Remtema added a pair of sacks and three pass break ups from his safety position.
As of the writing of this article there are still several possibilities for Rockford as to who their opening round opponent will be. When the field is announced another article will be forthcoming concerning the opponent, site and time.