Highlanders’ late surge gives Rockford scare by TIM COOPER A cool, cloudy day greeted the spectators at the Ted for the regional final football game on Saturday, Nov. 13. For the first three quarters of Rockford’s match-up with the Howell Highlanders, it appeared to be business as usual, with the Rams scoring consistently and their defense keeping the Howell offense at bay. The Rockford offense struck first, driving 80 yards on 11 plays, with Mark LaPrairie throwing three consecutive passes to his primary receiver, Neil VanderLaan. The two combined for 61 yards on the drive, including a 39-yard pass. LaPrairie later found Brandon Lubenow for an eight-yard touchdown pass to complete the drive to give the Rams a 7-0 lead. Rockford’s defense proved tough, keeping the Howell offense out of the end zone for its first three possessions, while the offense, in workmanlike fashion moved the ball down the field, building a 17-point lead. Howell finally got on the board when Derrick Palma broke through the Ram defense for six yards, capping off a 77-yard drive. Rockford closed out the first half by again showing off the “LaPrairie-VanderLaan Connection.” LaPrairie found VanderLaan four times on the nine-yard drive, gaining 73 of the 75 yards on the drive, including a four-yard touchdown pass. The Rams took a 24-7 lead into halftime. Rockford’s only score of the second half came when “The Connection” struck again, with LaPrairie finding VanderLaan wide open. VanderLaan raced 70 yards to give the Rams a 31-7 lead early in the third quarter. Howell’s offense then found its footing, attempting to mount a comeback as they scored 20 unanswered points. A touchdown with 1:31 left on the clock brought the Highlanders within four points of the Rams. To no one’s surprise, Howell attempted an on-side kick, which was recovered by Rockford’s Zach Schmuck, beginning the mad minute of football. With the Rams looking to ice the game by gaining one final first down, the Highlanders found new life when the Rams’ Brady Gent fumbled the ball on second down with 45 seconds left. Howell recovered the fumble, and took possession at their own 44. A questionable holding penalty moved the ball to the Ram 46, where Highlander quarterback Greg Cauley threw the ball […]
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.
Rockford takes on Traverse City West in pre-districts by TIM COOPER On Friday, Oct. 29, 256 teams throughout the state, divided into eight divisions, began the run to the state championship, which will be held at Ford Field in Detroit on Thanksgiving weekend. This year’s playoff opener marked the fifth time the Rockford Rams and the Traverse City West Titans have met, with Rockford having won each of the previous four games. Behind the strong running of Zach Schmuck, Rockford jumped out to a 7-0 lead. Schmuck’s one-yard plunge into the end zone capped off a nine-play, 52-yard drive. It was the first of three touchdowns Schmuck scored in the first quarter. Two plays later and 23 seconds later, Schmuck scored again. Schmuck’s second touchdown was set up by the first of KC Zenner’s two interceptions. Zenner returned the interception 15 yards to the Titan 13. On the following play, Schmuck carried the ball into the end zone to give Rockford a 14-0 lead. After the Ram defense forced Traverse City West to punt, Rockford took possession of the ball again, mounting an eight-play drive that was finished by Scmuck’s third touchdown with 28 seconds remaining in the first quarter. The Rams went into the locker rooms with a 28-0 lead at halftime after Kyle Short threw an 11-yard pass to Aaron Weston with 29 seconds left in the second quarter. Early in the third quarter, Traverse City West saw a ray of hope as they stopped the Rams in the first possession of the half. The Titan offense followed up their defense’s effort by driving 86 yards into the Rockford end zone to narrow the score by seven. West’s efforts were stifled, however, as the Ram defense, continuing to hit hard, stopped the Titans on a critical fourth-down-and-one-yard-to-go situation with 2:54 left in the third. Rockford’s offense brought the lead back to 28 as Kyle Short threw his second touchdown pass, this time to Matt Boonstra. Traverse City West scored one more touchdown in the fourth, to make the final score 35-14. Following the game, Coach Ralph Munger said of his Rams, “Our boys came out ready to play, scoring on our first three possessions, but then I think our kids let up some […]
Rockford comes from behind in Battle of the Rams by TIM COOPER On Thursday, September 2, the Rockford Rams made the one-hour trip down I-96 to play the Holt Rams. Rockford would fall behind early to one of the better teams in the Lansing area, trailing 14-0 before the first quarter ended. Rockford’s defense would be tested all night as their offense would struggle to come from behind. “I wasn’t really in the best of moods when that happened, but it was early,” said coach Ralph Munger. “We had a lot of time left on the clock. The bottom line is, you have to keep slugging it out. You have to get back into the game.” With 5:18 remaining in the first quarter, Rockford’s offense began to rise to the task. Using a potent ground attack, Rockford completed a 53 yard drive on the first play of the second quarter when Zach Schmuck dove into the end zone for Rockford’s first points of the night. Rockford held Holt to three points in the second quarter, giving Holt a 17-7 lead, after a 37 yard field goal from Holt’s Evan Fischer. Using a smash mouth style of football, Coach Munger’s Rams again cut into the Holt lead when Connor Darby crashed through the line for six yards and a touchdown with 32 seconds remaining in the half, bringing Rockford within three. A Holt fumble with time running out gave Rockford’s Steve Mette the chance to complete the comeback. Mette’s kick was good, barely crossing the uprights after being tipped by Holt’s defensive line. With the score tied at 17, Holt again pulled ahead with their opening drive when Curtis Nick crossed into the end zone for his third touchdown of the night early in the second half. After trading possessions with Holt, the big Rockford line smashed their way down field, allowing Mette to tie the score after a Nate Sanders touchdown with 2:20 left in the third quarter. Rockford’s defense then created three turnovers, allowing the offense to wear Holt’s defense down. The final turnover came with 1:07 remaining in the game, when Shain Showers picked off a pass from backup quarterback Jake Bozzo. Six plays later, Munger’s Rams found themselves at the Holt 2 yard […]
Rockford downs Davison 27-10 by TIM COOPER After three weeks of practice under the hot August sun, the Rockford Rams walked onto the field in front of a large crowd for their opening game August 27, at the Ted Carlson Memorial Stadium. Rockford has opened each of the last three seasons against the Davison Cardinals, and this year was the same. Davison, having won the coin toss, elected to receive the opening kickoff. Steve Mette’s kick would go through the end zone, forcing Davison to start their first drive on their own 20 yard line. Four plays later, Davison would be forced to punt the ball to the Rams, who would start their first drive just inside Davison’s territory, at the 46 yard line. The Cardinals’ defense would limit Rockford to 16 yards on their first possession, forcing a 46 yard field goal attempt by Steve Mette. Mette split the uprights, giving the Rams an early 3-0 lead. The Rams second possession started from their own 20, after a Davison punt went into the end zone. On the first of play of the possession, Rockford quarterback Mark LaPrairie, hit wide receiver Neil VanderLaan with a perfect pass down the left sideline. 75 yards later, VanderLaan was standing alone in the end zone. Davison, trailing by ten, retaliated with a 30 yard field goal to complete their following drive. Rockford countered with a 40 yard field goal by Mette after Davison turned the ball over on their own 17, giving the Rams a 13-3 lead midway through the second quarter. Again, the Rockford defense shut Davison down, forcing them to punt. The Rams’ final possession of the first half ended with a 12 yard LaPrairie pass to Zach Schmuck, putting Rockford ahead by 17 with just over three minutes remaining in the half. Davison’s final drive saw quarterback Jake Thompson connect with Jacob Jacobs, for an 80 yard gain, placing the ball inside the Rockford five. Four plays later, Brandon Cooper plunged into the end zone with seconds left in the half, making the score 20-10. Rockford’s final score of the evening came when Nate Sanders broke off tackle for seven yards into over the goal line, making the final score 27-10. Following the game, […]