Shamrocks too much in semifinals by TIM COOPER and MATT WEAVER Things looked good early for the Rockford Rams football team on Saturday, Nov. 19, as Brandon Lubenow returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. Then a Steven Mette field goal on the Rams’ second possession put them up by 10. Then things began to change. An uncharacteristic pass interception by Mark LaPrairie gave Detroit Catholic Central the ball on the Rockford 23-yard line. Four plays later, the Shamrock quarterback Kyle Cooper found Mark Doneth in the end zone, making the score 10-7. The Rams’ next drive went 69 yards, ending with a 14-yard LaPrairie-to-Lubenow pass, again putting Rockford up by 10. Midway through the drive, running backs Connor Darby and Ryan Hartley came off the field due to injury, forcing Coach Ralph Munger to rely on his reserves. Detroit Catholic Central used a pair of halfback passes on their next drive, the second a 21-yard strike which placed the ball at the Rockford 2-yard line. The Shamrocks pulled back to within three on the following play, when fullback David Houle dove through the Ram defense for a touchdown. A 45-yard pass to Lubenow gave the Rams one final scoring opportunity before the end of the half. With seven seconds remaining, LaPrairie found Justin Wustman open in the middle of the field. Wustman’s second effort fell short at the Shamrock 1-yard line as time expired. The second half started with Detroit Catholic Central using their strong running game to take control of the clock. The only points in the second half came on a 27-yard field goal by Shamrock Alex Kozlowski, which tied the score at 17. It appeared the Shamrocks had everything going their way late in the fourth quarter, as they drove the ball to the Ram 3-yard line. With 30 seconds remaining, Kozlowski set up for the game-winning field goal. The kick was blocked by the interior of the Ram defensive front, sending the game into overtime. Detroit Catholic Central, having won the coin toss, chose to play defense. Rockford, having failed to advance the ball 10 yards to score, settled for a 26-yard Mette field goal and a 20-17. On the Shamrocks’ second play, Houle caught a pass from […]
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 […]
Rams defeat West Ottawa for second time by TIM COOPER and MATT WEAVER With the grueling OK Red conference schedule in the rearview mirror, the Rockford Rams began their drive to a state championship on Friday, Oct. 28. The 8-1 Rams’ first opponent in the MHSAA Division I football playoffs would be the 6-3 Panthers of West Ottawa High School. The two teams met in week four of the regular season, when Rockford defeated the Panthers 41-16. The Rams’ opening possession started at the West Ottawa 46, following a fair catch interference penalty on the kickoff. Rockford’s powerful running attack tore through the Panther defense, with Brady Gent running the final yard for a Ram touchdown. Steve Mette’s extra point gave Rockford an early 7-0 lead. Following the kickoff, West Ottawa went on a 15-play march down the field. The Panthers, typically a pass-oriented team, used a ground attack to move the ball down field, before the Ram defense stiffened, forcing the Panthers to settle for a field goal from the Rockford seven-yard line. Mette put the Rams up by seven again with a 34-yard field goal of his own to cap off a 7:42 drive by the Ram offense. West Ottawa proved their quick strike capability when quarterback Trevor VanTubbergen found wide receiver Ato Condelee for a 30-yard touchdown pass, making the score 10-10 with 5:06 left in the first half. VanTubbergen ended the night 8-11 with 72 yards and one touchdown. With just over two minutes remaining in the second quarter, the Rockford defense forced a fumble at the Panther 42. The Rams took advantage of the mistake by the Panthers when five plays later, Gent broke through the West Ottawa defense for his second touchdown of the night. Gent finished the night with 115 yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns. Both defenses stepped up in the second half, with neither team scoring. With the 17-10 victory, the Rams advance to the district finals, where they will face CAAC Blue champion Grand Ledge. The Comets advanced by defeating Grand Haven 21-14. The two teams will face off at the Ted this Friday night at 7 p.m.
Rams carry eight-game win streak into the playoffs by TIM COOPER and MATT WEAVER A small crowd braved the cold temperatures on Friday, Oct. 21, as the Rockford Rams battled the Wildcats of Jenison in the final football game of the 2011 regular season. Even temperatures in the 30s weren’t enough to cool off the red hot Rams, whose defense had only allowed 14 points in the previous three games. Points would be at a premium for Jenison, a team that had averaged only 15 points per game through the first eight games this season. The Rockford defense limited the Wildcats to only 115 yards of total offense, while the Rams gained a total of 359 yards on the night. “Randy VanderVeen and the defensive staff do a wonderful job putting together a game plan,” said Coach Ralph Munger. “The type of offense Jenison runs can be difficult to defend.” The Rams’ defense helped their offense by giving them a short field consistently throughout the night. Rockford’s first score of the night came on a four-yard plunge by Connor Darby into the end zone after a 46-yard drive. The second touchdown came following a 40-yard drive when Mark LaPrairie hit Justin Wustman with an 18-yard pass, putting the Rams up 14-0. The Rockford offense left the door open for Jenison by turning the ball over on each of their next two possessions, but the Ram defenders slammed the door each time, forcing the Wildcats to punt. Rockford’s next possession started on their own 18-yard line, a drive that saw the Rams travel 82 yards in only four plays. Darby opened the series with a 34-yard dash to the Ram 42-yard line. Three plays later, Brandon Lubenow finished the series with a 51-yard touchdown romp through the Jenison defense. The Rams had two more possessions in the first half—the first a 48-yard drive that showed balance as the Rams passed on three of the seven plays. The final play was a 13-yard touchdown run by Ryan Hartley. Rockford’s final drive of the first half was a 38-yard series, ending with Lubenow carrying the ball 12 yards for a touchdown, putting the Rams up by 35 at halftime. The Lubenow touchdown, his second of the night, capped […]