Rockford advances to face Detroit Catholic Central in semifinals by TIM COOPER The goal for Coach Ralph Munger and his Rams in the regional final game was not necessarily to stop the high-powered Grand Blanc Bobcats’ offense. Grand Blanc, in the first two games of the playoffs, had run up 108 points, more than any other team in Division I. Munger gave high praise to the Grand Blanc squad, saying, “They’re the most talented team in the state.” Early in the first quarter, it appeared the Rams were going to do more than slow Grand Blanc. On the second play from scrimmage, Kyle Short intercepted a pass from quarterback Bart Williams, returning it to the Bobcat 15-yard line. Connor Darby powered into the end zone from four yards out three plays later. On Grand Blanc’s second possession, it appeared as if the Rams were going to continue to stop the Bobcats, as Rockford forced Grand Blanc to kick the ball away. KC Zenner returned the punt to the Bobcat 47, where the Ram offense took command. They advanced to the 24-yard line before being stalled by the Grand Blanc defense, where Steve Mette was called upon to kick the first of three field goals. Mette connected from 42 yards, 32 yards, and 45 yards. With the Rams leading 10-0, the Bobcats showed they wouldn’t be stopped, but rather they could only be slowed down. Grand Blanc moved the ball to the Rockford 7-yard line, where they were faced with a third-and-goal situation. A pass interference call against the Rams gave the Bobcats a fresh set of downs inside the 5-yard line. Williams completed the drive when he found Tearon Jameson, bringing the Bobcats within three points. After Mette knocked in his second and third field goals to give Rockford a nine-point lead, Grand Blanc appeared to have reversed the tides. They moved the ball 61 yards before giving up an interception in the end zone to Chubbs Johnson. The Rockford offensive line took control of the game, opening large holes and allowing the Ram running backs to chew up the field. With time running out in the first half, quarterback Mark LaPrairie found receiver Brandon Lubenow in the corner of the end zone from 13 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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.