By Randy Gregory,
Michigan Sports Radio
Photo courtesy of Miles Postema
Early in the second quarter of the Division 1 District football game between Rockford and East Kentwood, Rockford was clinging to a 17-14 lead and had just been turned away on a fourth down and goal play at the Falcon 1-yard line. The Falcon faithful sensed that this was their chance to take the lead against the heavily favored Rams and chew up some clock as they had done on two prior drives in the opening quarter. But that would be the apex of their efforts as Rockford proceeded to run off the next 33 points to put the running clock into effect and claim an impressive 50-14 win against the Falcons.
With the win the Rams record moved to 10-0 on the season and advanced to the District Finals against the winner of the Caledonia versus Grandville game next week. The Rams have the higher playoff point total over both the Fighting Scots and the Bulldogs and will host the game that will more than likely be played at 7:00 P.M. on Friday November 4 at Carlson-Munger Stadium.
“I was impressed with the ability of our team to focus on the task at hand against a solid East Kentwood team after the big win last week,” said Rockford coach Brent Cummings. “Defensively we finished out the first half very solid and carried that through into the second half. And Alex McLean had multiple explosive and exciting plays that showed just how tough it can be to get him down on every play. But that is just a feature of our team and showed why they were champions of the OK Red and never lose sight of their ultimate goal.”
The game began with a bang for the Rams as the defense sacked the EK QB on the opening play and forced a fumble that was recovered by Gabe Stouffer at the Falcon 17. Three plays later Mac VandenHout scored from the two-yard line to make it a 7-0 Rockford lead less than a minute into the contest. Jackson Burkholder converted the first of his six consecutive points after for Rockford after the score. East Kentwood came right back and drove 65 yards in 12 plays to make it 7-7 with 6:04 left in the opening quarter.
McLean then made the first of several huge plays for the Rams on the ensuing kickoff. Gathering the ball in at his own 11, McLean broke all the way across the field to his left and broke several tackles while dipping and spinning his way all the way to the Falcon 13 before just being tripped up after a 76-yard return. VandenHout took the first snap and fired a pass up the middle to a wide-open Ethan Lyon that the senior tight end took in for the second Ram TD of the night. That made it a 14-7 Rockford lead with 5:46 still to play in the opening stanza. The Ram defense forced a quick three and out and got excellent field position after a shanked punt that resulted in a 35-yard field goal from Burkholder to make it a 17-7 game still in the first quarter.
But the resilient Falcons again had a quick answer as they scored from a yard out with 1:57 still left on the clock in the first quarter to make it a 17-14 game and make things a little disconcerting for the large home crowd. But after being stopped on the fourth down and goal play, the Rams turned on the jets to firmly assume control of the game. On the first play for East Kentwood the running back was stuffed at the two-yard line. The next play was a shotgun snap that went right through the hands of the Falcon QB and out of the end zone for a safety to make it 19-14. After begining the next drive at the Rockford 31 the Rams stayed almost exclusively on the ground as VandenHout and Ahern took turns chewing up big yardage. VandenHout capped it off with a one-yard plunge over the right side to put the Rams up 26-14 with 4:28 to play in the opening half.
The Ram defense and special teams quickly combined to get the ball back for Rockford at their own 38 just three plays later. On the fourth play VandenHout hit McLean with a quick inside screen that the senior wide receiver took 43 yards for another Ram score with 2:01 left in the half. Mclean broke a pair of tackles and made a beautiful cut to the sidelines to finish off the 43-yard scoring play to make it a 33-14 Rockford lead at the half.
Rockford received the second half kickoff and wasted no time adding to their lead. McLean again capped off this drive with a jet sweep to the right side that made the score Rockford 40 East Kentwood 14. Colby Weston sacked the Falcon QB a few plays later resulting in a fumble that was recovered by Ahern. This time the Rams were unable to convert on a fourth down try from the Falcon 25 and the score remained the same. On the first play of the final quarter VandenHout and McLean again teamed up to increase the lead for Rockford. This time it was a 7-yard pass in the left flat that saw McLean deftly avoid a pair of Falcon defenders for his third score of the game.
Burkholder added another field goal from 31 yards with 4:13 to play to set the running clock in motion as the Rams lead grew to 50-14. Burkholder was good on both of his field goal attempts by a hefty distance as he continues to build on a solid season for the Ram special teams.
“Jason VanderLaan and Brian Richardson share special team responsibilities for us and they both do a great job at having the team ready to execute in that important facet of the game,” said Cummings. “We have always prided ourselves on solid special teams play at Rockford and it has just been more of the same this year.”
VandenHout had another huge game from a statistical perspective. He was 14 of 24 passing for 180 yards and three touchdowns. He also had 19 carries for 127 yards and a pair of TDs. Ahern added 103 yards on 17 attempts to the rushing total of 275 yards the Rams rang up as a team. McLean had seven receptions for 98 yards and a pair of touchdowns as well as taking one in on the ground. Brody Thompson added three receptions for 44 yards and Lyon had the single reception for a TD of his own. It was a banner night for the Ram offense as they rang up 470 yards of offense after barely surpassing 200 yards in the first meeting between these two teams.
Weston led the defense with 7 tackles while Stouffer added five of his own. Isaac Poot, Brett Cadwell and Ahern all added four to the tally for the Ram defense. Isaac Galle also contributed with the third fumble recovery for the Ram defense in the final quarter after yet another QB sack.