By Randy Gregory, Michigan Sports Radio



For the second consecutive week Rockford journeyed to the lakeshore to take on another team loaded with speed and size on Friday, September 1st. This time around it was another powerhouse in Muskegon Mona Shores. The Sailors were fresh off of an overwhelming 58-7 win over an opponent from Wisconsin and have multiple returning starters from an 8-3 team last year. But just like last week it was Rockford that assumed control (albeit a bit later than last week) and rolled to a 31-8 victory to move to 2-0 on the young season.



“We knew coming into the season that we had some explosive kids and as a matter of fact we took first place in the 4×100 relay at the state meet,” said Rockford head coach Brent Cummings. “Quite a few of our players were backups last year and were just waiting for their chance this time around and they have taken full advantage of that opportunity. It is a great advantage to have so many kids who can really get after it”



The big stars of the night for the Rockford offense were senior wide receiver Cam Kruizenga and senior quarterback Drake Irwin. Kruizenga reeled in three touchdown passes (57,59 and 15 yards) in showcasing his breakaway speed. Irwin was 10-16 passing for 207 yards and a trio of touchdown passes of his own. One of Kruizenga’s TD passes came from senior running back Ryan Ahern on a halfback option pass.



“Drake did a great job again tonight,” said Cummings. “He works so hard on his timing with the receivers and it carried over into the game again tonight. But by the same token, you have to give a lot of credit to the offensive line tonight. You saw how much time he had to find his receivers and he had wonderful protection for the most part.”



The game actually began with both teams struggling to maintain any semblance of continuity although the Sailors did reach the Ram 25 and 35-yard lines but came away empty both times following a fumble recovery and a turnover on downs. Luke Ahern recovered the fumble to thwart the second of the threatening drives for Mona Shores.



The initial points of the contest didn’t come until the first Ram possession of the second quarter. On a first and ten play form the Rockford 43, Irwin dropped back and uncorked a deep spiral towards Kruizenga while he was streaking down the right side. Kruizenga had flown past the Sailor DB and never broke stride as Irwin hit him right on the numbers for the 57-yard touchdown pass. Chase Vogt added the PAT and Rockford led 7-0 with 8:35 left in the first half. Vogt would also add the only other points of the opening half as he boomed through a 34-yard field goal with 1:27 remaining in the second quarter to make it a 10-0 Ram lead at the break.



“I thought Mona Shores came into the game with a great game plan and really made things difficult for us early,” said Cummings. “They have a great coaching staff and a very talented team and did some nice things early. But we stuck to our game plan and were able to eventually make some plays.”



Rockford mustered only five yards on their first possession of the second half but the defense denied Mona Shores at every turn and gave the offense the ball at their own 29 to begin their second drive. Irwin completed a nifty swing pass to Ahern that set them up at their own 41 for the second play of the drive. This time Irwin dropped back again and found Kruizenga all alone again on a post pattern that pushed the lead to 17-0 following another Vogt conversion with 5:15 left in quarter number three.


Mona Shores got the ball back and was forced into punt formation as the stingy Ram defense allowed them nothing yet again. But this time senior cornerback Louis Bosscher blocked the punt and it was recovered by senior defensive lineman Gabe Stouffer at the Sailor 13. Rockford wasted no time capitalizing on the block as Irwin fired a fade route to junior wide receiver Lucas Pitsch that he cradled to his chest just before falling out of bounds to make it a 24-0 contest with 3:18 left in the third quarter.


After forcing yet another Sailor punt, the Rams scored another touchdown on their next possession to make it a 31-0 game. This scoring play came on a halfback pass from Ryan Ahern to a wide open Kruizenga on the first play of the final quarter. Taking a pitch from Irwin, Ahern started an apparent sweep to his right before pulling up and lofting the TD pass. Vogt’s fourth extra point gave Rockford 31 points and sent a fair portion of the crowd to the exits with 11:54 still to play.


Mona Shores finally got on the board against the Ram reserves with 3:06 to play and added a two-point conversion. That made the final score 31-8 Rockford as they ran the balance of the clock out before taking a knee to earn the victory.


“The best thing about a game like this is that we got the opportunity to get so many of our players into the contest,” said Cummings. “When you have a roster of over 100 players it is nice to be able to reward so many of those players that devote a tremendous amount of time and effort every day. They contribute so much to our success and I could not be happier for them.”


Rockford will take on Jenison nest week Friday, September 8th in the first game of OK Red play. The bout will mark a third successive road contest for Rockford to open up play in the 2023 season.