Photo courtesy of Miles Postema
After possessing the ball for a grand total of three plays offensively at home against Jenison on Friday, October 14, Rockford found themselves with a commanding 21-0 lead. That lead grew to 28-0 at the half and the game appeared to be headed for a running clock in the second half. But in the second half the game devolved into something of a slog as both teams put up a pair of touchdowns. Rockford eventually went on to win their annual Homecoming contest by the score of 42-14.
The Rams struggled offensively in the second half as Jenison blitzed constantly and seemed to put the Rockford offense into an unfamiliar position of looking for something that would work consistently against the pressure. The final outcome was never in doubt however and the win pushed the Rams record to 8-0 on the season and 6-0 in OK Red play. That sets the stage for one of the biggest games in recent memory as Rockford will now head to Caledonia on Friday, October 21 to take on a Fighting Scot team that shares an identical record. Both teams are ranked in the top five in the state in Division 1 and the atmosphere and anticipation will be at a fever pitch for both teams. Jenison fell to 2-6 overall and 1-5 in conference play.
“The game served as a lesson for the coaches and the players tonight,” said Rockford coach Brent Cummings. “We started out so fast out of the gate and then the game hit a lull. Everything was happening so easily and I think we collectively relaxed and got out of our normal groove for a while. We worked on keeping things basic and trying to get back into a groove but we just never quite got to that point in the second half.”
The Rams forced a Jenison punt after the first three plays of the contest. That kick was deflected by Thys Segard for Rockford and scooped up by Gabe Stouffer to set the Rams up at the Wildcat 26. On the first play from scrimmage for the Rams Alex McLean took a handoff on a jet sweep to the right and went the distance to make it a 7-0 Rockford lead after Jackson Burkholder’s conversion kick with 9:51 left in the opening quarter.
The Wildcats showed some moxie on the next drive and eventually got just past the 50 into Rockford territory. But they were forced to punt again and this time the result was even worse for the visitors. Sophomore safety Isaac Poot gathered in the punt at his own 24 and quickly sped up the left sideline. The blocking was so good he was never touched on his way to a 76-yard TD. That made it a 14-0 contest with 3:57 still to play in the opening stanza.
Jenison again got something of a drive going on the ensuing possession before attempting a 52-yard field goal that came up well short. Rockford started their next drive at their own 20 and took exactly two plays to make it a 21-0 game. The first play was a 22-yard pass from VandenHout to Mclean. The next was a 58-yard pass to an uncovered Jonny Rohen-Blanton that was over the second the speedy senior wide receiver gathered the ball in. it was a 21-0 game and the Ram offense had barely seen the field with just over ten minutes remaining in the half. But the Ram offense struggled to replicate that quick strike offense over the balance of the contest under heavy duress from the Wildcat defense.
Rockford did make it a 28-0 game at the half as they made the Wildcats pay for one of their many all-out blitzes. After a 29-yard field goal attempt from Burkholder clanked off the left upright, the Ram defense took possession at the Wildcat 45 with less than a minute to play in the opening half. On a first and ten play from the Jenison 33-yard line, VandenHout fell back against yet another blitz before dropping a screen pass off to Ryan Ahern. The junior running back had to sidestep only one defender and darted into the end zone with only :19 to play in the first half to make it a 28-0 contest.
The teams then traded touchdowns in the second half as first the Wildcats scored on a 24-yard run. Brody Thompson got those points back for Rockford on another jet sweep to the right from seven yards out to make it a 35-7 game with 9:53 to play in the contest. Jenison answered with an 18-yard TD pass that made it 35-14 with 5:29 to play in the game. Junior quarterback Drake Irwin got those points back for Rockford on a 15-yard jaunt with :46 seconds to play in the game to make it a 42-14 game. Irwin broke a pair of tackles and twisted his way into the end zone on the scoring play against the starting defense for Jenison to exhibit his prowess as the signal caller should the need arise for the Rams.
“Jenison really let it rip defensively in doing something different tonight,” said Cummings. “Now we just need to focus on prep and be ready to go next week. We really need to trust in the coaching and prepare just like this team has all year long against an excellent opponent next week.”
VandenHout was 9-20 passing for 213 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Irwin was 3-4 for 25 yards in his lone drive. Rohen-Blanton had a pair of catches for 85 yards and a TD to pace the receivers. McLean had three receptions for 51 yards and Ahern had the lone reception for 33 yards and a score of his own. Irwin had three rushes for 30 yards and a score and McLean and Thompson both had a touchdown on jet sweeps for the Rams.
Rick Beison had a hand in 14 tackles and Segard and Ahern chipped in with 11. Austin Harvey added seven stops from his cornerback position. Poot had three punt returns for 87 yards and a touchdown. He also had a second punt return that went for a score but that one was nullified by a penalty for the second time this season.
Now the wait begins for the clash of the Titans in the OK Red this upcoming Friday. Home field for a good portion of the playoffs and conference supremacy are just two of the things at stake for both teams. Kickoff is slated for 7:00 P.M. and a crowd that will be bursting at the seams is all but guaranteed at Caledonia on Friday, October 21.