By Randy Gregory
Michigan Sports Radio
Photo courtesy of Miles Postema
The first half of the game between Rockford and Grandville at Carlson-Munger Stadium on Friday, September 30 saw Grandville run an incredible 45 plays offensively. Conversely, the Rams ran only 12 in the opening half and 33 total for the game. At first glance it would appear that would appear to be a formula that is not conducive to success. But that was extremely deceiving on a night where the Rams never punted and never kept the ball for more than nine consecutive plays. Rockford scored touchdowns on each of their first five possessions using four plays, three plays, five plays, nine plays and four plays successively. And to cap that run off, they settled for a field goal in a drive that took only five plays on the following drive.
Defensively it was a classic case of bend but don’t break for the Rams as they held a potent Grandville offense that had been averaging 42 points a game to 14. Rockford swarmed to the ball on the defensive side for the entire 48 minutes while forcing the Bulldog offense to earn every single yard they gained. Probably the biggest play of the night for the Rams on defense was a sack from senior outside linebacker Thys Segard with Grandville at the Rockford 23 and trailing only 20-6 and less than 10 seconds to play in the opening half. The Dawgs had exhausted their timeouts at that point and were forced to watch time expire before getting off another play.
“That was a huge play be a senior that really stopped any momentum Grandville might have gained and allowed us to keep the lead we had built up in the first half,” said Rockford coach Brent Cummings of the sack by Segard. “This team practiced really hard on a rainy Monday and a rainy Tuesday while maintaining focus on a great rivalry between Rockford and Grandville. They (Grandville) really tried to run the clock and maintain possession but we kept them out of the end zone for the most part. It was another good night for the defense as they paid great attention to detail all night long.”
Rockford forced a quick punt from Grandville after the opening kickoff and wasted little time putting the first points of the game on the board. On the opening play of the game Ram quarterback Mac VandenHout fired a deep pass over the middle that was reeled in on the fly by Brody Thompson while covering 53 yards to the Bulldog five-yard line. Three plays later Ryan Ahern took a hand off and powered up the middle for the two-yard score. The point after was just wide but the Rams had a quick 6-0 lead they would never relinquish.
Grandville then mounted an incredible 19-play drive that saw them eventually face a fourth down and 15 at the Ram 22. The attempted fourth down pass fell harmlessly to the turf and the Rams took possession at their own 22. Vandenhout first ripped off a 47-yard run before the drive concluded two plays later when Ahern started up the middle before veering left and breaking multiple tackles on the way to a 33-yard TD to make it a 13-0 game after Jackson Burkholder drilled the PAT.
Broken tackles and second effort was the theme of the night for the Rockford offense. On nearly every big play the Rams produced that extra effort was on display for the Rams.
“I was really proud of the way everyone kept their legs churning all night long,” said Cummings. “The offensive line was also very good from start to finish. We felt coming into the game we could sustain drives either passing or throwing the ball and we were able to do just that. It was a complete game in every facet for a determined group of players.”
Grandville then cut into the lead on their next possession while using 13 plays to march 78 yards and make it a 13-6 game after Rockford blocked the extra point. Unfortunately, they had to kick the ball back to a red-hot Rockford offense. Beginning from their own 41 the Rams used only five plays to score yet again. After having a 50-yard Ahern TD run called back on a hold, the Rams would score just two plays later. The key play of the drive was a fantastic catch from Thompson while being flung to the ground by his facemask on a 24-yard pass from VandenHout. Ahern would then take a direct snap and sweep left for a one-yard score to give Rockford a 20-6 lead with 3:59 left in the opening half. Segard’s sack maintained that margin as the halftime horn sounded.
Rockford received the second half kickoff and used their “longest” drive of the night to further extend the lead. The Rams used nine plays to march 72 yards and make it a 27-6 game. The score was set up by a tremendous individual effort from Alex McLean on a screen pass with Rockford facing a second and 16 at their own 22. In the midst of breaking multiple tackles, McLean started right before heading left and was not headed until reaching the Dawg 35. VandenHout called his own name on the scoring play as he ran a quarterback draw while going untouched for the 13-yard TD that made it a 27-6 game at the 7:17 mark of the third quarter.
Grandville showed they would not go down without a fight on the ensuing drive with a four-yard score of their own on the opening play of the final quarter. The two-point conversion made it a 27-14 contest and offered a glimmer of hope to the Grandville faithful. But that was extinguished just four plays later when the Rams extended the lead to 34-14. Another big play set the stage for this TD as VandenHout hooked up with Jonny Rohen-Blanton for a 53-yard pass up the left sideline. Rohen-Blanton also broke several tackles while nearly going the distance before being tackled at the Bulldog 17. On the next play VandenHout fired a pass over the middle to McLean that he grabbed in stride before tumbling into the end zone with 9:41 to play in the game.
Burkholder would drill a 29-yard field goal with less than two minutes to play to push the lead to 37-14. And after forcing a three and out from the Grandville offense, the Rams ran the clock out to procure the win.
Rockford moved to 6-0 on the year with the win and 4-0 in OK Red play. Grandville dropped to 4-2 overall and 2-2 in OK Red play with the loss. Next up for Rockford is a trip to Hudsonville on Friday, October 7 at 7:00 P.M. The Eagles will enter the fray with deceptive record of 2-4 (2-2 OK Red). But nobody in the state has played a more difficult schedule than the Eagles.