By Randy Gregory
Rockford has historically prided themselves with a defense that may occasionally give up some points but usually keeps the team in the game despite facing multiple powerhouse offenses over the last 25 or 30 years. That has decidedly not been the case this year as the defensive struggles continued in a 33-14 loss to Muskegon Mona Shores at home on Friday, September 14th.
The Rams found themselves trailing 14-0 after the first half and could easily have kept it a single touchdown game at the break. The disappointing final score of the half came on a play where Rockford had Mona Shores quarterback in their grasp at the four-yard line with less than 10 seconds to play and the Sailors having exhausted all of their timeouts. But somehow he squirmed out of the defenders grasp and dove just across the goal line to make it a 14-0 game.
Mona Shores did most of their damage in the first half via the pass with the first score coming on an 18-yard TD pass over the middle that gave them a 7-0 lead at the 5:44 mark of the second quarter. Rockford›s only chance to dent the scoreboard went awry when a 39-yard field goal attempt was blocked late in the opening quarter.
Mona Shores employed a decidedly different tactic in the second half as they unleashed their 217-pound fullback Sincere Dent on the Ram defense repeatedly. Dent ended up averaging over 12 yards a carry while scoring on runs of 64, 55 and 11 yards in a span of four possessions. The two long scoring runs were off the left side on identical plays with Dent barreling down the field after bursting outside with nary a hand laid on him.
Counting the late first half score, the Sailors scored on five of their last six possessions of the game.
Rockford struggled to establish any continuity until midway through the third quarter. Rockford coach Ralph Munger went with a shorter passing game and some misdirection and the results were encouraging as the game wore on. Sophomore quarterback Chris Corey was at the helm and seemed to grow much more confident as the game wore on.
Senior running back Jack Richardson had a solid night for Rockford in more than one phase of the game. As the punter he boomed punts of 51 and 72 yards to flip the field on a pair of occasions for Rockford. The latter of those punts pinned Mona Shores at their own one-yard line and helped key the first Ram touchdown. Richardson also had several twisting, feinting runs and receptions that extended plays and drives for Rockford.
The first Ram score came on a 13-yard TD run by Connor White that made it a 21-7 game with 5:59 remaining in the third quarter. The second Ram score was also courtesy of White as he scored on a six-yard jaunt to give a sizable Ram contingent of fans a brief glimmer of hope as it cut the Sailor lead to 27-14 with 10:06 still to play in the game. Teagen Lenderink added the point after following both Ram touchdowns.
But Dent and the Sailors had a scoring retort at every turn to keep it a three touchdown game till the bitter end. The only thing that kept Rockford from scoring on a third consecutive drive to end the game was the clock expiring. The Rams had driven from their own own 43 to the Sailor 12 before the final horn sounded.
White led the Ram rushing attack with 60 yards on 9 carries while Jaiden Friesen added 44 of his own. Corey was 8 for 12 passing for 83 yards to pace the Rams in the air. Richardson hauled in three receptions for 36 yards while Nate Bareno contributed a trio also for 33 yards. Ian Rodriguez again led the Ram defense with 13 tackles while fellow middle linebacker Austin Klein chipped in with 10. Jarrett Plekes had nine tackles and Dylan Dams came through with seven.
Mona Shores moved their record to a perfect 4-0 on the season with the win. Rockford sits at 1-3 and has reached the point where a win may be necessitated in every remaining game to reach the Michigan High School Athletic Association playoffs for an astounding 24th consecutive season. Five wins may get them in but six wins guarantee them a spot.
Rockford will look to get back on the right track this Friday September 21st when they journey to Grand Haven to take on the Buccaneers. Kickoff is slated for 7:00 P.M.