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 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.
by TIM COOPER After being on the road for four weeks, the Rockford Rams appropriately returned to the Ted on Friday night, Oct. 15, for their annual homecoming game. This year, along with the fans and alumni, the Rams also welcomed the Bulldogs of Grandville to the tradition, renewing the storied rivalry between the two teams. Throughout the history of the rivalry between Rockford and Grandville, there have been many surprises. No one would have expected the Bulldogs to upset the number-one-ranked Rams early in the 2004 season, or the teams meeting later that year in the playoffs in an overtime thriller that helped launch Rockford to its first state title. Equally as shocking was the Rams’ 48-0 playoff victory over the Bulldogs in 2005 after losing 10-7 in the regular season, marking Grandville’s most recent defeat of the Rams. This year, the surprise stemmed from the stellar play of Rockford’s defense, who held the Bulldogs to just 79 yards of total offense, despite Grandville maintaining control of the ball for 24:59. Though Rockford’s offense had the ball for less than 20 minutes, they managed to tally 379 yards and score 56 points in a dominant shutout. Six different Rams found their way to the end zone, led by Zach Schmuck’s three-touchdown performance. Mark LaPrairie completed 8 of 10 passes, and threw for two touchdowns, including a spectacular pass thrown to standout receiver Neil VanderLaan, who made one of the most impressive catches he’s had so far this season. In addition to Schmuck and VanderLaan, four other Rams scored touchdowns: Brandon Lubenow, Trevor Alferink, Nate Sanders and Spencer Sims all contributed by putting points on the board. Kicker Steve Mette chipped in by hitting all eight of his extra-point attempts en route to the 56-0 blowout of the Bulldogs. Coach Munger commented, “Tonight, we executed. The challenging thing in a game like this is to maintain focus. You have to play at the level of your ability. In these games, you take the scoreboard out of the equation. The guys are gaining ground, and starting to understand the concepts of our offense.” The regular season finale will be played this Friday, Oct. 22, when the Rams travel to Hudsonville to face the Eagles. The Rams […]
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 […]