Rams district champs With his team trailing 13-7 at halftime, Coach Ralph Munger had one question for his players: “Is this how you want your season to end?” The Rams, who had sputtered throughout the first half, opened the second half with a resounding “No” when Zach Schmuck returned the kickoff to the Rockford 40-yard line. The Rams’ Brady Gent put an exclamation point on that “No!” when he broke through the middle of the Panther defense, and raced 58 yards before being caught at the West Ottawa 2-yard line. Two plays later, Gent crashed through the defense and stumbled over the goal line to put the Rams ahead, 14-13. Though Gent has been there all year, he seemingly came out of nowhere against West Ottawa, as he exploded through the Panther line consistently. He racked up 152 yards on 17 carries, most of which occurred during the second half. Gent had three second-half touchdowns. Munger had high praise for the running back. “Gent’s a great young player. He works hard every day, and he did what is expected of all our players.” The defense also answered “No!” by limiting the Panthers to 77 yards in the second half. “We had terrible field position in the second half,” West Ottawa Coach Jim Caserta commented. “We couldn’t get out of our own end.” The Rams’ final, “No!” came when Mark LaPrairie, deep in West Ottawa territory, found Neil VanderLaan for a 17-yard touchdown pass, giving the Rams a 35-13 lead, and the pair’s second touchdown of the night. The first was 49-yard strike for the Rams’ only score of the first half. This victory provided Rockford with its 11th district championship, and their sixth of the last seven years. By winning the district, the Rams advance to the regional final game against the Howell Highlanders, to be held at the Ted Carlson Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 13 at 1 p.m. The Highlanders advanced by defeating Holt 29-7. Ram fans should note that the annual craft fair will also be held at the high school, so parking at or near the Ted will be at a premium.
As they prepare to defend their state water polo title on November 12, thirteen Rockford Rams took time out to receive Academic All State honors from the Michigan Water Polo Association (MWPA). Eight of the honorees are juniors: Cody Brown, Nick Dulak, Mac Finnie, Allyn Kinney, Alex Savage, Matt Vermeer, Josh Waldvogel and Bryan Wasberg. Five are sophomores: Mike Arend, Trenten Babcock, Grant Beach, Corey Fase, and Nick Willison. “We are proud of our student-athletes at Rockford High School,” said Athletic Director Tim Erickson. “Notice the word ‘student’ precedes the word ‘athlete.’ That is our philosophy: student first. Coach McWatters and the water polo team provide a perfect example of this philosophy.” MWPA Academic All State athletes must have a 3.75 cumulative grade-point average (GPA) after completing at least a full year of high school. All 13 boys meet that benchmark; several of them with a GPA higher than 4.0. “We are very proud of the student participation rate in our Rockford High School athletic program,” noted Principal Dan Zang. “More important than the scoreboard, conference standings, and pursuit of state championships, however, is our students’ performance in the classroom. We are fortunate to have student-athletes who truly understand that classroom performance is more important than what happens in the playing arena. Having our coaches appreciate and value this perspective is vitally important as well.” Coach Dave McWatters agreed, “Half of our team is Academic All State! This achievement represents our greatest hope for these young men: that their experience as part of Rockford water polo will enrich their lives long after they graduate. These young men and others are able to respond to the demands of the sport and also achieve academic excellence. That will serve them well for years to come.”
Rockford places second Saturday, Nov. 6 was a tough day for the Rockford girls as they fought hard but couldn’t beat powerhouse West Ottawa in the OK Red conference meet at East Kentwood. Rockford placed first in only one event; the Panthers were able to hold on to top places in six of the 12 events, setting five conference records along the way. The Rams were still able to place a strong second, even leading West Ottawa at one point in the meet. Coach Tom Parks told the girls after the meet, “West Ottawa currently has a great alignment of talent. Our Rams gave them a run for their money without a lot of big name, Division I swimmers and divers. West Ottawa could be first or second in the state and, after seeing other conference results around the state, it looks like only Rockford and Saline would have come close to beating them in a conference format.” Friday night the Rams swam extremely well. Four swimmers placed in the top 16 of every event except the 500 free, where Kayla Kidder was first alternate being edged out by 0.65 of a second. State times were set by Alaina Smith and Lexy Caster in the 200 free and Kara Vandawater and Morgan Longberg in the 100 backstroke, as well as by the 200-yard medley and 200-yard free B relay teams of Longberg, Morgan Lipe, Madison Trimble and Lauren Girard, and Kristen Schnelle, Madison Levine, Emily Williams and Trimble. On Saturday, West Ottawa led the point totals from the beginning, taking first to the Rams’ second in the 200 medley relay (Casey Wolfer, Rachel Romain, Sarah Smith and Jamie Van Portfliet). The Rams were able to stay within striking distance until the 100 butterfly, when Rockford got their only first-place finish from junior Sarah Smith. That put the Rams in front, but was not enough to hold on to the lead. After the next event, West Ottawa regained and held the lead though the remainder of the meet, taking first with 479 points. The Rams finished second with 457.5, Hudsonville finished third with 321.5, and Jenison fourth with 284. In the 200-yard freestyle, Adrianna Craft, A. Smith and Emily Smith swam the consolation heat (places nine […]
Rockford High School Coach Dave McWatters, his assistants and some of his student-athletes will offer a winter age-group water polo program for boys in the eighth grade and under. The program begins the afternoon of December 4 from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., and will continue on eight other Saturdays. Boys will be introduced to the great sport of water polo, work on the fundamentals of the game, and have fun! No prior water polo experience is necessary, though swimming experience is helpful. Contact Coach McWatters by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.