By Randy Gregory
After being gashed the previous two weeks the Rockford defense was in dire need of a resurrection to regain confidence and get the team headed back in the right direction with an OK Red victory. Despite an uneven effort offensively, the Rams pretty much stymied Grand Haven at every turn defensively and tossed in a handful of big special team plays to escape with a much needed 21-0 victory over the Buccaneers on Friday, September 21st.
“Our defense was pretty solid all night long despite giving up the edge on a few occasions,” said Rockford coach Ralph Munger. “I have to see the film to be able to single anybody out but it was a nice effort. We were only able to run a few plays that worked well offensively because we had a few breakdowns on multiple plays and struggled to establish any rhythm. The special teams were also a key factor tonight.”
Every time it seemed as if Rockford was starting to get the ball rolling offensively in the first half there was something that caused that momentum to unravel. In one instance Dylan Dams recovered a fumble for the Rams only to see Rockford fumble the ball right back on the following play. The Rams had a trio of turnovers on the night as they lost two fumbles and suffered a single interception.
The only score of the opening 24 minutes came via a big play from the Rockford special teams and senior halfback Jack Richardson. Richardson gathered in a Buc punt at the Ram 38 and started back up the middle before veering to the right. Several outstanding blocks later, he found himself streaming up the right sideline untouched until he reached the end zone for the only points of the first half. Teagen Lenderink nailed the first of three successive extra points and the Rams had a 7-0 lead with 7:57 left in the second quarter.
For the second consecutive week Richardson also had a big game when called on to punt. He drilled punts of 67 and 51 yards with outstanding hang time on every kick. The blustery conditions greatly affected either teams ability to call on the passing game but Richardson and Lenderink kept the effect on the Ram special teams to a minimal level when punting or kicking into the unrelenting wind.
Rockford managed to take advantage of a Buccaneer turnover early in the second half to quickly expand the lead. Austin Klein intercepted a batted pass and returned it to the Grand Haven 23 to set Rockford up in excellent field position. Richardson again did the honors as he swept right on a third down and six play from the 19-yard line. Once again he emerged into the end zone nearly untouched and it was a 14-0 game at the 8:25 point of the third quarter.
Rockford forced another Buccaneer punt three plays later and took possession at midfield. Jaiden Friesen ripped off a run of 19 yardson the first play and that was immediately followed up by a 30-yard burst from Connor White that put the ball on the Buc 1-yard line. Three plays later it was White doing the honors from just outside the goal line and it was a 21-0 game with 4:31 left in the third stanza.
The dominance of the Ram defense was demonstrated in the fact that the deepest penetration of the game for the Bucs came on their opening possession as they got to the Rockford 23. They never again got past the Ram 40 as the Ram defense continued to impose their will.
Rockford looks to grab their second successive win this Friday, September 28th when they host Caledonia in another OK Red tilt. The Rams record now stands at 2-3 on the season and 1-1 in OK Red play. A win would be the first home victory for Rockford after three losses and would go a long way towards generating momentum as the Rams look to extend their consecutive playoff appearance streak to 24 years.