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 […]
Rockford Rams Football
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.
Rams shock Muskegon with 52-44 upset by TIM COOPER From many people attempting, and few finishing, the gastronomical monstrosity that is the Fifth Third burger, to a rousing chorus of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” some traditions at Fifth Third Ballpark never change. On Friday, Oct. 1, the park renewed a tradition by inviting two local high school football teams to participate in its annual tradition at the ballpark. Instead of backstops and base paths, there were goal posts and sidelines. Instead of Tigers’ prospects and dreams of Major League careers, it was the Rockford Rams and the Muskegon Big Reds with hopes of OK Red supremacy. The opening kickoff set the tone for a night of surprises, as Muskegon caught the Rams off guard with an on-side kick, which the Big Reds recovered. Four plays later, Big Reds quarterback Kavonta Keyes sprinted 17 yards into the end zone, giving Muskegon an early 6-0 lead, after the Rams’ Brandon Lubenow blocked the extra point attempt. The Rams’ first possession ended in an interception, just three plays into the drive. They retained possession of the ball after just three more plays, however, when Zack Nelson recovered a fumble forced by teammate Colin Remtema. The fumble recovery set up Rockford’s first score of the night, a 38-yard field goal by Steve Mette, cutting the Big Reds’ lead in half. Muskegon ate up the remainder of the first quarter and the opening minute of the second quarter, driving the field, before Keyes found an open Darren Briggs for a 17-yard touchdown pass, extending the Big Reds’ advantage to 13-3. Rockford’s offense found its footing on its next possession, with Mark LaPrairie going a perfect eight-for-eight on passes before handing the ball to Zach Schmuck for the final yard, bringing the Rams within three points of Muskegon. The Rams then took advantage of a second Muskegon fumble on the kickoff, giving them the ball at the Muskegon 21. Four plays later, LaPrairie found Aaron Weston in the end zone, giving the Rams their first lead of the evening. Rockford took the 17-13 lead into halftime. Rockford’s first play of the second half saw LaPrairie passing to star receiver Neil VanderLaan for a 54-yard touchdown pass, allowing […]