The game between Rockford and Grand Haven, played in Grand Haven on Friday, October 25, began as if the Rams were going to run away and hide from the Buccaneers in relatively short order. Rockford streaked to a 21-0 lead before the conclusion of the opening quarter and was moving the ball at will and stifling Grand Haven at every turn. But the gloomy, wet night turned into something of a slog over the final three quarters and the Rams held on to a comfortable margin for the balance of the contest to post the 28-6 win and procure a few of the goals set by the team at the onset of the season.
The Rams finished the regular season with a perfect record of 9-0 while also running the table in the OK Red at 7-0. The win also likely assures that Rockford will have the highest point total for playoff seeding in Division 1 and will be hosting each of the first three MHSAA playoff games should they continue to win. The playoff matchups will be announced Sunday afternoon on Bally Sports Detroit at 5:30 P.M. The loss ended Grand Haven’s season at 3-6 and 2-5 in conference play.
“I really felt Grand Haven came into the game with a solid game plan,” said Rockford Coach Brent Cummings. “They have some big-time players on the offensive line and went to a power football mentality that kept us off the field for extended periods. But our players still did what they had to do not only tonight but week after week in a very difficult OK Red. The work ethic and dedication of this team is special and now we hope to keep it rolling as the playoffs begin next week.”
Rockford received the opening kickoff and marched down the field in 1:08 to take a 7-0 lead. Ryan Ahern did the honors with a one-yard dive to give the Rams the early lead. Tyler Vroman proved that he is a man of multiple talents as he handled the kicking duties for Rockford and was a perfect 4-4 on extra points while also doing a fine job on kickoffs.
Rockford quickly got the ball again in the first quarter and wasted no time adding to the lead. This time it was a one-yard plunge for senior quarterback Zak Ahern at the 5:05 mark that made it a 14-0 Ram lead after another Vroman conversion. Rockford again regained possession in relatively short order and increased the lead to 21-0 as the Ahern brothers combined for this marker. The scoring play saw Zak Ahern roll to his right and find Ryan Ahern wide open in the right flat for probably his easiest TD of the season.
But that would be it for Rockford in the scoring column until the final quarter. Grand Haven went to a meticulous ball control offense that ate up consistent but short yardage and chewed up minute after minute on the game clock. The final time of possession stats for the game saw Grand Haven have the ball for 31:38 while Rockford only had the ball for 16:22. Rockford rarely wins the time of possession battle due to their quick strike offense but this night was an overwhelming margin for the host Buccaneers.
As an example, the only points that Grand Haven scored on the night came after they received the second half kickoff. The Bucs held the ball for 10:11 seconds of the third quarter before scoring on a four-yard run from Ryan Francis. Ball control wasn’t the only problem of the night for the Rams either as they also incurred multiple major penalties that not only stopped their own drives but extended a few for Grand Haven.
After that TD and missed point after kick the Bucs had cut the lead to 21-6 late in the third quarter and resorted to their bag of tricks with an onside kick that was recovered by the Rams to stymie that effort. Rockford quickly made that gamble costly for Grand Haven as Zak Ahern scored on a six-yard jaunt around the left side that made it a 28-6 Rockford lead and concluded the scoring for the evening.
Rockford was led statistically by Zak Ahern as he went 9-13 passing for 64 yards and a TD and carried the ball only 8 times for 102 yards and a pair of rushing touchdowns. Ryan Ahern had 15 carries for 88 yards and Preston Korytkowski came in late to add 32 yards on only three attempts. Mac VandenHout led the receiving corps wit 4 catches for 27 yards while Alex McLean chipped in with 21 yards on three receptions. Besides Vroman being perfect on his kicking, the Ram special teams were indeed special again. VandenHout had one punt return for 47 yards and McLean had a kickoff return for 43 yards. In addition, Zak Ahern had a single punt that went for 56 yards before being downed inside the five-yard line.
The Ram defense was led by Colby Weston with 12 tackles while Luke Vanderwiel added eight and Andrew Griffin contributed seven. Sam Watts and Jack Lamancusa also added six tackles apiece for the Rams.
The first playoff game for Rockford will almost certainly be played on Friday, October 29 at Rockford at 7:00 P.M. if history is any indication. Best of luck to the team as they begin the difficult road ahead.