by RANDY GREGORY As the dawn of a new football season sits on the doorstep, the Rockford varsity football team anxiously awaits the opportunity to step forward and make their mark in this 100th anniversary of the program’s inception. The extra work in the weight room, camps, conditioning, grueling two-a-day practices and preseason scrimmage are done. The team has chosen their captains and all the hope and promise of the opening kickoff will be reality on Thursday, Aug. 23 at Ted Carlson Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m., when Rockford welcomes Lowell. Connor Darby (running back/safety) and KC Zenner (safety) are both returning for their senior seasons for the Rams. They will both be three-year starters and are two of the hardest workers on the team. And they were the two choices for captains by their teammates. Both are also fully cognizant of the task that lies ahead of them. “Our goal is to take things on a week-to-week basis this year,” said Darby. “We need to get better every week because there are no easy games on our schedule. We will get everybody’s best shot and we have to be prepared for that eventuality.” For his part, Zenner maintains that there is no single game that the Rams are looking forward to above and beyond the other eight on the schedule. “You really can’t afford to place an added importance on any single game,” said Zenner. “We need to take it one game at a time and prepare for that contest. When you get caught looking ahead is when you can slip up. That is one of our biggest points of emphasis as captains.” Though they said all of the things you would expect captains to say, it was easy to ascertain between the lines that the Rams are definitely looking forward to the opener on Thursday for more reasons than just the game being the start of the season. Lowell won the renewal of a rivalry between two of Michigan’s traditional powers by a convincing 28-7 margin last year at Lowell. “We got off to a very slow start last year,” said Darby. “We made a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes and got outplayed. We need to come out focused and execute our game plan […]
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 shares OK Red football championship with Grand Haven by TIM COOPER The ninth and final week of the regular season found the Rams traveling to Hudsonville to take on the Eagles. Rockford’s offense, led by Brady Gent’s two touchdowns, defeated the Eagles 27-7, earning them a share of the OK Red conference crown. The first of Gent’s touchdowns came with 4:29 remaining in the first quarter, giving the Rams a 7-0 lead. For the remainder of the first half, Rockford’s offense struggled to move the ball. Hudsonville was also aided by numerous Ram penalties. “I thought it was Flag Day, with all the penalties,” Coach Ralph Munger said. Rockford’s second touchdown came in the final seconds of the second half, when quarterback Mark LaPrairie found receiver Neil VanderLaan with a 12-yard pass, a play that Munger called a turning point in the game. “LaPrairie was really on tonight,” commented Munger. “We’ve come a long way as a team with a junior quarterback. We lost two senior running backs to injuries, but we found replacements in a junior and a sophomore.” LaPrairie finished the night 15-of-25, gaining 228 yards. He threw two touchdown passes and one interception. Zach Schmuck scored midway through the third quarter. A missed extra point attempt made the score 20-0. Gent’s second touchdown came via a pass from LaPrairie, extending the lead to 27-7. Hudsonville’s lone touchdown came with 8:27 left in the game when Zac Van Ess plunged through the Rockford line for a 10-yard score. Coach Munger was pleased with the way his team closed out the regular season. “Our guys did certain things well enough to get the job done. We’ve got a lot of weapons, and are feeling pretty good about that.” The Rams are also feeling pretty good about making their 16th straight playoff appearance. The Rams found out on Sunday, Oct. 24, that their first-round playoff opponent will be the Traverse City West Titans, a team that Rockford knocked out of the playoffs in 2008, defeating them 46-26. The game will be held on Friday night, Oct. 29, at home in Ted Carlson Memorial Stadium.
Sixth win puts Rockford in playoffs for 17th straight season When East Kentwood’s Braden Miller streaked past the Ram kickoff team to start the game, it appeared Rockford may have been coming out flat after their big win over Muskegon the week before. A minute and a half later, Ram running back Zach Schmuck raced past the Falcon defense for a 71 yard touchdown run, and all looked well again. On Rockford’s second possession, Schmuck again broke through the Kentwood defense, this time from nine yards. The following two point conversion made the score 15-7, not even five minutes into the game. After his first three carries, Schmuck had 106 yards. He went on to finish the night with 145 yards, with seven attempts. Following another Rockford touchdown, the Falcons seemed to have a breath of life in them. Trailing 22-7, they marched 70 yards to the Ram 25 yard line, when linebacker Colin Remtema knocked the wind out of the Kentwood offense by returning and interception 85 yards for a touchdown that put the Rams ahead 29-7. Rockford would score again before the end of the half as backup quarterback Kyle Short threw a 76 yard touchdown pass to Neil VanderLaan, extending the lead to 29 points. The Rams defeated the Falcons 53-7 after second half touchdowns from Solomon Gant and Trevor Alferink, and a 3rd quarter field goal from Steve Mette. Rockford’s defense, forced to play with all-state linebacker Brett Egnatuk on the sidelines, put together their best effort of the year. East Kentwood was held to just 125 yards offensively. It was the first time since 1999 the Ram defense shut out the Falcon offense. Every Ram in uniform saw the playing field. Following the game, Coach Ralph Munger said, “It was nice to play so many kids tonight. The reserves practice just as hard as the starters every day. Getting into a game helps to motivate them in practice.” “We were missing thirteen kids from practice on Tuesday because of illness. With that, and the big win over Muskegon, I was concerned about a letdown, but that’s our sixth win. We’re in the playoffs.” Rockford returns to Ted Carlson Memorial Stadium this Friday, where they will celebrate Homecoming. The Rams will renew […]