Defense and numbers highlight 2023 Ram football outlook
Coming off of a 10-1 season that ended in disappointing fashion with a 14-13 loss in double overtime in the district finals, Rockford approaches the 2023 campaign with a sense of optimism. Despite losing most of their skill players from a talented offense the Rams return multiple playmakers on defense and some solid contributors on the offensive line. Those factors combined with a roster that numbers 101 players (51 seniors, 48 juniors and two sophomores) has Ram Nation eagerly anticipating another campaign under the auspices of fourth-year coach Brent Cummings. Cummings has an outstanding record of 29-3 so far as the head man for Rockford as well as winning three consecutive OK Red crowns.
The schedule has always been strong when faced with playing in the OK Red, but this year has added even a more challenging hurdle with the Rams heading on the road the first two weeks to take on traditional state powers Muskegon and Muskegon Mona Shores. Muskegon returns a large portion of a team that lost in the state finals in Division 3 last year while Mona Shores has won multiple titles over the past five seasons.
“We like the challenge of going on the road and facing great programs with great coaching staffs,” said Cummings. Hackley Stadium (Muskegon) is a historic setting and it will be a nice way for us to see where we stand with one of the best teams in the state right out of the gate. Muskegon has a very talented team and presents multiple challenges to our team. It should be a great night of football for the fans of both teams.”
On offense Rockford returns only three starters. One of whom is two-way standout Ryan Ahern. Ahern rarely left the field last year for Rockford as he was the main running back and a tackling machine at middle linebacker. He will be joined as returners with a pair of massive offensive linemen in tackle Alex McPhee (295 pounds) and guard Mason Kirn (280 pounds). 280-pound Nolan Miller is another large part of the Rockford offensive line. Drake Irwin will man the quarterback position for Rockford after being the primary backup last season. The wide receiver corps is led by Seth Anderson, Cam Kruisenga, Mikey DeKuiper, Ben Cummings and Isaac Poot.
Defensively the Rams are much more experienced. Including the contributions of Ahern, the linebackers returning include Christian Herrema (though on the defensive line this go around). They will be joined by mammoth outside linebacker Kade Friesen (235 pounds) who missed all of the 2022 season with a broken leg. Joining with that imposing crew will be sophomore Sam Cummings at the other inside backer spot. The defensive line also returns another stalwart in Gabe Stouffer at defensive tackle/end. A massive addition on the defensive line for Rockford is junior defensive/nose tackle Zane Panchula. Panchula weighs in at 290 pounds and has already received multiple Division 1 offers. Poot is the quarterback of the Ram defensive secondary at safety after a tremendous sophomore campaign. He is also a dangerous return man and will see duty as a playmaker on offense. Louis Bosscher returns as a solid cornerback and they will be joined by yet another Ahern in the secondary. This time around will feature sophomore Luke Ahern at the other safety spot.
The four captains chosen by their teammates for Rockford are Irwin, Ahern, Herrema and Anderson. All four are very deserving according to Coach Cummings. The season kicks off at Muskegon on Friday, August 25 at Hackley Stadium in Muskegon with kickoff slated for 7:00 P.M.