Jim Cooper

Rams win fourth consecutive football district championship

November 10, 2011 // 0 Comments

Rockford defense shines as offense explodes  by TIM COOPER and MATT WEAVER According to Head Coach Ralph Munger, when the Rams have a good week in practice, things go well in the game. The Rams had a good week in practice last week. Rockford took little time asserting their dominance over Grand Ledge in the district final on Friday, Nov. 4. Prior to Friday night’s contest, no team had scored more than 17 points against the Comets. Rockford put up 21 in the first quarter. Ram quarterback Mark LaPrairie had a hand in two of the three touchdowns, the first a 19-yard bootleg around the right end to put the Rams up 7-0 just 1:39 into the game. His second touchdown came with 33 seconds remaining in the quarter, when he found tight end Aaron Weston wide open in the Comets’ secondary. Sandwiched between the two LaPrairie touchdowns was a 3-yard drive by Brady Gent. The Ram defense did their part by limiting Grand Ledge to one first down in the first half, while preventing the Comets from crossing the 50-yard line. This allowed the offense to work with a short field for the majority of the half. LaPrairie added two more touchdowns in the second quarter, both of them through the air, as LaPrairie connected twice with Justin Wustman, once for 52 yards and again for 54 yards. Wustman showed great focus on the second reception, making a circus-catch off of a Grand Ledge defender’s helmet before turning around to carry the ball into the end zone. The second half started with the Rams up by 35. Under MHSAA rule, when one team leads by 35 or more in the second half, the clock only stops for scoring plays, timeouts, penalties or an injury. On incomplete passes or plays where the ball is taken out of bounds, the clock doesn’t stop like it normally does. Since Rockford maintained that gap for the majority of the second half, the running clock aided in speeding the game to an early finish. LaPrairie’s fifth touchdown on the night came on an 11-yard pass to Connor Darby. The Rams’ quarterback went 8-11 on the night, with 220 yards, and four passing touchdowns to go with his one rushing […]

Rams varsity football improves to 3-1

September 22, 2011 // 0 Comments

Defense shines in first half  by TIM COOPER and MATT WEAVER  Ryan Hartley darts around the end of the offensive line. Hartley scored two touchdowns Friday night. Photo by JIM COOPER An undefeated West Ottawa Panthers football team paid a visit to the Ted Carlson Memorial Stadium on Friday, Sept. 16, to face the Rams in a highly anticipated matchup between the two OK Red teams. A balanced offensive attack, led by Trevor VanTubbergan, effectively moved the ball down field on the Panthers’ opening drive. However, a Rockford interception by Shane Showers at the 10-yard line put an end to the series. Three plays later, West Ottawa was back in control of the ball on the Rams’ 8-yard line following a Rockford fumble. The Panthers were forced to kick a 26-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead. Rockford’s first score of the night was set up when KC Zenner raced 62 yards on the following kick return. A 50-yard field goal by Steve Mette tied the score when the Rams’ drive was stalled on the West Ottawa 33-yard line. The stout Rockford defense prevented West Ottawa from scoring again for the remainder of the first half. Late in the first half, the Rams’ offense found its footing as well, when Mark LaPrairie hit Brandon Lubenow on fourth down. Lubenow split the Panthers’ defense for 41 yards and a touchdown with just five seconds remaining in the half. Quarterback Mark LaPrairie is lifted up by his teammates before the game. During the game, it was LaPrairie who helped to lift his team to victory.   Photo by JIM COOPER “We could have buried ourselves in the first half,” said Coach Ralph Munger. “Maybe it was a bad game plan on my part, but that touchdown was huge.” The Rams opened the second half with a 10-3 lead and the ball. An 85-yard drive was capped by Ryan Hartley’s 2-yard plunge into the end zone. After the Rams’ defense forced West Ottawa to go three-and-out, Hartley scored his second touchdown on a 10-yard run, giving Rockford a 24-3 lead. Rockford’s next score came only eight plays later when Mette hit a 52-yard field goal. “I feel very comfortable with Steve from the 33-yard line in,” Munger said […]

Rams halt Buccaneers

September 15, 2011 // 0 Comments

by TIM COOPER and MATT WEAVER Good things don’t always come in small packages. As running back Brady Gent was about to score his fourth touchdown to cap off a brilliant night, no one expected to see the ball pop out of his sure hands. Even more unexpected was big offensive lineman Ivy Johnson falling on it in the end zone. Johnson had a swarm of Rockford students gather around him after the win over the Grand Haven Buccaneers on Friday, Sept. 9 on home turf. “It feels great,” Johnson said. “I’ve been a lineman my entire life. This is a dream come true.” The fumble by Gent was a minor hiccup in a tremendous performance for the senior. Gent had three touchdowns and 163 yards on the night. Coach Ralph Munger said of Gent, “ He’s running hard. He had a great night. He seems to get better with each night, just as a number of our guys are.” The Rams were truly dominant from the start, as KC Zenner returned a punt 75 yards for a Rockford touchdown just 3:59 into the game. Ryan Hartnagel returned a block punt 1:40 later for a second Ram touchdown, giving Rockford a 14-0 early in the game. Grand Haven tried to bounce back, scoring exactly one minute later on a Dakota Smith touchdown. After a Rockford three-and-out, the Buccaneers capitalized, bringing themselves to within four points after a field goal with 3:14 left in the first. The two teams then traded possessions for the following eight minutes, until Gent ran 36 yards for the first of his three touchdowns, making the score 21-10. The score went unchanged until the 4:37 mark in the third quarter, when the Buccaneers again went to Smith, this time on a 21-yard pass from quarterback Scott Staal. A failed two-point conversion left the score at 21-16. The Rams again answered right back, scoring on an eight-play, 2:44 second drive that ended with a 14-yard run by Gent. Rockford’s successful two-pointer made the score 29-16. Gent’s third touchdown came on Rockford’s next possession, when he pounded the ball into the end zone from the 1-yard line. An incomplete pass on the two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving Rockford with a 19-point lead. Grand […]

Rockford bursts past Holt, wins football battle of the Rams

September 8, 2011 // 0 Comments

by TIM COOPER Not since 2002 had the Rockford Rams lost two games in a row. Rockford hadn’t gone 0-2 to start a season since 1978. Only four times since 1950 have they dropped the first two games of the year. After a week one loss to Lowell, and the perennial state power Holt Rams coming to town, it appeared avoiding that fate would be a daunting task. In the previous five games, Rockford had gone 3-2 against Holt, defeating Holt 27-24 last year in a tremendous come-from-behind effort. With the opening kickoff, Rockford’s special teams took control of the game. Using their “starburst” kick return, Brandon Lubenow raced 96 yards for the first score of the game. On the ensuing kickoff, a Holt fumble returned the ball to Rockford on the 11-yard line. One play later, Ryan Hartley broke through the Holt defense for a touchdown, giving Rockford a 14-0 lead just 26 seconds into the game. After a Holt punt, Rockford drove 50 yards on eight plays, capped off by Connor Darby’s 5-yard run, making the score 21-0. Holt’s bright spot in the first half came when Rockford fumbled a punt reception at their own 49-yard line. The visitors finished the drive early in the second quarter with a 3-yard touchdown run by quarterback Justin Alleman. For much of the second quarter, the two teams exchanged drives with each other, until Rockford quarterback Kyle Short found Lubenow open in the end zone to extend the lead by seven. The score remained 28-7 as the two teams headed into the locker rooms for halftime. The second half opened with an 80-yard Holt drive that ended when Rockford’s KC Zenner recovered a fumble in the end zone to out the ball back in Short’s hands. When Rockford was forced to punt on the following drive, kicker Steve Mette’s punt pinned Holt deep into their own territory. After Holt drove to midfield, Dylan Rodriguez recovered a fumble to give the ball back to Rockford’s offense. Darby, who had 29- and 11-yard runs in the following series, also finished the drive by taking the ball five yards for a touchdown. Mette’s extra point made the score 35-7. Rockford’s final score of the evening came when running back […]

Rams lose football opener to Lowell

September 1, 2011 // 0 Comments

Injuries hamper team’s efforts  by JIM COOPER and MATT WEAVER The last time the Rockford Rams and the Lowell Red Arrows met on the gridiron, it was November 9, 1973. The country was being rocked by the Watergate scandal. Memories of the Vietnam War were fresh in the nation’s minds. The number one song in America was Eddie Kendricks’ “Keep On Truckin’.” High school football was still decades from being the phenomenon we know today. Rockford and Lowell combined for a total of just 105 wins in the previous 10 years. Flash forward to August 25, 2011, and you have a game that was touted as the top opening game in Michigan. The two schools have now won over 200 games in the last decade, with three state titles apiece in the same span. Fans from both sides had been clamoring for this game and, finally, after 38 years, the two teams collided once more. Emotions were high at Bob Perry Field in Lowell as the two teams took the field. After deferring the opening kickoff, the Rams were successful in containing the Red Arrow’s explosive dual-threat quarterback Gabe Dean on the opening possession of the game. However, a Lowell fumble recovery on Rockford’s first play from scrimmage put the ball back in the hands of the elite player. Three plays later, Dean ran for 20 yards to the end zone, with the extra point putting the Red Arrows up 7-0. Three-and-a-half minutes later, Dean made the Rams pay for a second lost fumble, allowing Lowell to take a 14-0 lead within the first eight minutes of the game. After the two teams swapped possessions for the remainder of the first quarter and the first six minutes of the second, Dean struck again, this time with a 26-yard touchdown pass. Trailing by 21, Rockford’s Connor Darby managed to break loose on the ensuing kickoff, taking the ball into the Red Arrows’ end zone. However, the play was called back due to an illegal handoff on the Rams’ tried and true starburst kickoff return formation. The following drive ended with Rockford’s Mark LaPrairie hobbling off the field with help from the trainer. The senior quarterback suffered a dislocated toe that kept him out of action for […]

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