By Randy Gregory
Michigan Sports Radio
At the beginning of the 2022 football campaign, it was assumed that Rockford and Caledonia were the front runners for the crown in the always difficult OK Red. The schedule makers joined in on the anticipation as well by making the contest the final game of the regular season. All of those who watched both squads roll through the season largely unchallenged were forced to just bide their time seeing whether both could continue to hold serve. Save for a 50-40 Caledonia win over a strong Grandville contingent and a 31-27 Rockford win over a very talented team from Muskegon Mona Shores, there was little that stood in the way of the inevitable showdown.
Well, here we are as the 8-0 Rams from Rockford will journey to Caledonia to face the 8-0 Fighting Scots (both are 6-0 in OK Red play) on Friday, October 21 at 7:00 P.M. Caledonia will enter the fray averaging 45.6 points per contest while surrendering 10. Rockford has put up 41 points per game while allowing 15.8. Both are ranked within the top five teams in the state in Division 1 and ranked far and away as the top two teams in West Michigan.
It is not a long history of games between the two schools as they first met in 2014. Caledonia faced off with an unbeaten Ram squad that time around and thoroughly embarrassed Rockford by the count of 42-0. They have squared off seven times since and the Rams have won nearly every game in convincing fashion to take a 7-1 lead in the series. The single exception to the overwhelming Ram wins came last year as the teams met in Rockford with 6-0 records in Rockford in front of a massive crowd and on statewide television (Bally Sports Detroit). It took a late touchdown from Rockford to claim a thrilling 17-14 win.
Caledonia ended last year with a record of 10-2 before bowing out to state finalist Traverse City Central in the Regional round. Rockford finished 11-1 while also falling in the Regionals to Grand Blanc 28-27. Lasy year the Fighting Scots were a Division 2 team and the regular season contest would be the only time the teams would face off. That is not the case this year as Caledonia has been moved up to Division 1 with an ever-increasing enrollment. This time the stakes are for the OK Red title. Should both teams win their playoff openers, the right to host round 2 will also be decided by the winner of this huge contest.
Caledonia is led by a terrific trio of skill players. Senior quarterback Mason McKenzie is back for his third season behind center and is a dangerous double threat as both a passer and runner. Junior running back Brock Townsend headlines a talented backfield and is always a threat to go the distance. And finally, junior Derek Pennington, JR is a threat as both a tight end and linebacker for the Fighting Scots. All three have received multiple offers from colleges and bear watching on every snap. Justice Reed is also another big play threat as a receiver for Caledonia.
Rockford counters with senior quarterback Mac VandenHout, who has flashed his prowess as both a runner and passer all year long for the Rams. He has a talented corps of receivers led by Alex McLean and Brody Thompson and a two-way threat for the Rams in Junior running back/linebacker Ryan Ahern. The Rams also feature offensive linemen Dan Neill, Mike Liggett and junior Alex McPhee. VandenHout, Thompson, McLean and McPhee are also all being courted by multiple colleges.
Caledonia is coached by Derek Pennington, SR in his second year at the school. His record stands at an outstanding 18-2 thus far for the Fighting Scots. Pennington previously coached at Zeeland East and was an impressive 88-43 in his time there. He was also the head man at Kalamazoo Loy-Norrix for four seasons prior to that. The Rams are led by third-year coach Brent Cummings. Cummings has an excellent record of 27-2 so far for the Rams in his first time around as a head coach. He was a long-time assistant for the Rams before assuming the reins.
The preliminary forecast is promising so far with temps in the 50s and partly cloudy skies. This game will garner tremendous interest both locally and around the state. The crowd is certain to be tremendously large and loud for both teams so make it a point to get there early and reserve your spot for what is almost certain to be a memorable game for all concerned.
You can listen to the game live at michigansportsradio.com