By Randy Gregory
Michigan Sports Radio
On a night where the offensive attack was held up a bit against a solid East Kentwood defense, the Rockford defense took center stage to key a 41-20 Rockford victory at East Kentwood on Friday, September 23. While Rockford racked up only a shade over 200 total yards, the defense totaled 13 tackles for loss, four sacks and was seemingly chasing whoever the quarterback was for the Falcons relentlessly.
“The defensive line and our outside linebackers were generating a ton of pressure all game long,” said Rockford coach Brent Cummings. “They were forced back onto the field in short order on more than one occasion but really stepped it up and put the quarterback in some very challenging positions. I thought offensively we struggled to run the ball for nearly the entire game but were able to generate some big plays when we needed them by slinging the ball around.”
After forcing a quick three and out from the Falcons on the game’s opening drive, the Rams wasted no time taking a quick lead they would never relinquish. Rockford used ten plays to cover 53 yards before reaching the end zone. The scoring play was a beautifully thrown and caught deep fade in the far, right corner of the end zone from Mac VandenHout to Brody Thompson. The TD pass came on a third down and 13 play from the Falcon 13 to give Rockford a 7-0 lead at the 7:09 mark of the opening quarter following the successful conversion from Jackson Burkholder.
East Kentwood drove to the Ram 11 on the ensuing drive before being turned away on a fourth down attempt later. As was the case in multiple Falcon possessions, Rockford committed multiple penalties before turning EK away. Rockford committed 12 penalties in total as a team for a whopping 120 yards. On the lone Falcon scoring drive of the opening half the Rams were assessed major penalties on three consecutive plays to keep the drive alive before tossing in an offsides call inside their own five.
“That was one of the disappointing aspects of the game tonight,” said Cummings. “As a team and as a coaching staff we need to take ownership of those penalties and figure out what we need to do to address it. We were able to overcome it tonight but we can’t allow it to become a consistent problem.”
The Ram defense stymied East Kentwood following an interception late in the opening quarter and made another huge play a series later when the Falcons tried a fake punt from their own 28 that was canceled at the line of scrimmage. Four different Ram defenders swallowed up the punter as he tried to sweep to the right side and catch the Rams napping.
Rockford quickly took advantage of that stop while increasing their lead Ryan Ahern powered the ball into the end zone from three yards out just five plays later to give Rockford a 14-0 lead with 7:59 remaining in the opening half. East Kentwood got their only points of the opening half on the following drive to make it 14-7 with 3:53 left in the opening half.
Late in the first half the Ram defense forced a punt from the Falcons deep in their own territory that was returned to the EK 31 by sophomore Isaac Poot. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty from the Falcons on the play gave Rockford the ball at the East Kentwood 16. VandenHout used only one play to increase the Ram lead. Taking a quick three-step drop, VandenHout hit a streaking Alex McLean on a slant over the middle to give Rockford a 20-7 lead with only :42 left in the second stanza. The PAT sailed just wide to the right and it was a 20-7 Rockford lead at the half.
The second half was all Rockford until the latter stages of the game. The Rams received the opening kick of the second half and used nine plays to traverse 63 yards. This time around it was a jet sweep from Thompson to the right to make it 27-7 with 8:54 left in the third quarter. The Ram defense forced another Falcon punt that netted exactly zero yards two drives later. The Rams got the ball at the Falcon ten and it was Ahern who capped off this brief, one-play drive again. Plowing right up the middle, Ahern crossed the goal line at the 4:45 point of the third quarter to make it 34-7 and pretty much settle who the eventual winner was going to be.
The Rams sent in the reserves at that point but increased the lead even more after a beautiful scoring toss from Drake Irwin to Camden Kruisenga. Irwin showed off his arm on the play as he fired a perfect 36-yard strike to Kruizenga that he gathered in while in full stride to make it 41-7 with 6:54 left in the contest.
East Kentwood managed a pair of TDs against the Ram reserves late in the contest to make the score more respectable. But it was far too little and far too late as Rockford claimed the 41-20 victory. Rockford moved to 5-0 on the season and 3-0 in OK Red Play. East Kentwood dropped to 3-2 and 2-1 in conference play.
Ahern led a sparse Ram rushing attack with 32 yards on nine carries and a pair of scores. VandenHout was 13-19 passing for 110 yards and a pair of TDs and an interception. Irwin was a perfect 1-1 for 36 yards and a touchdown. McLean had five receptions for 36 yards and a TD while Thompson had four catches for 49 yards and one TD receiving as well as one rushing. Kruisenga had the lone reception for 36 yards and a TD.
Thys Segard and Ahern led the Rockford defense with ten tackles apiece. Aidan Schauss and Gabe Stouffer each added seven and Colby WEston and Rick Beison both contributed six. Drew Ferguson had three tackles total but all three were sacks as he was relentless in his pass rush all game long. Sophomore Isaac Poot also had a punt return for a touchdown, but in a familiar theme for the evening, but it was negated by a Rockford penalty.
Next up for the Rams is a big one. The Rams will return to Carlson-Munger Stadium on Friday, September 30 at 7:00 P.M. when they will host Grandville. The two bitter rivals will renew an annual battle that regularly decides who will come out on top in the OK Red. Grandville will enter the game at 4-1 overall and 2-1 in league play. Grandville suffered their first loss tonight to unbeaten Caledonia by a score of 50-40 in a defense optional showdown. The crowd and the stakes will be massive for both teams so make plans to arrive early.