By Randy Gregory,

Michigan Sports Radio


Photo by Miles Postema



It had all the appearances of a mismatch when 2-0 Rockford traveled to Jenison to take on the 0-2 Wildcats on Friday, September 8. That appearance was borne out as the Rams exploded for 49 points in the first half and cruised to a 49-12 win. The running clock was in effect for the entire second half and made for a relatively short night for the large crowd in attendance. Rockford scored four touchdowns via the pass, two on the ground and one by way of an interception return. Chase Vogt was perfect on all seven of his extra point attempts to finish the scoring for Rockford.



The passing game was the primary source of the fireworks generated by Rockford in the opening half. Drake Irwin tossed all four of the TD passes and utilized multiple routes to capitalize on. Cam Kruisenga was the beneficiary of three of the scoring passes and Blake Linsley hauled in the other one. Kruisenga has now reeled in seven TDs via the airwaves in a memorable three-week span.



“We knew the offense can execute at a high level by throwing the ball,” said Rockford Coach Brent Cunmmings. “And we just came in planning to sling it around. Drake Irwin is a really smart kid who gets better every week. We have seen it every week and we just know he is going to get better and better as the season progresses. Cam Kruisenga has real speed and we have watched him beat every secondary he has gone up against this year so far. He is a track athlete too and can create separation at any time.”



“And the work of the offensive line has been stellar week in and week out. They are a great group that works really well together, and they have responded very well to the coaching they receive on a daily basis.”



Rockford broke on top early following a fumble recovery by Andrew Hambleton at the Jenison 35 early in the first quarter. Irwin did the honors himself as he raced 17 yards over the right side to make it a 7-0 contest at the 8:50 point of the opening quarter. Both teams then traded punts before Irwin hooked up with Kruisenga for the second TD of the night for the Rams. This one was a straight fly pattern that saw Kruisenga fly past his man and gather in a perfectly thrown pass for the 53-yard score.



Rockford’s next score featured a trio of completions from Irwin to Mike DeKuiper that netted 25, 7 and 26 yards. But the ultimate scoring play was a beautifully thrown pass to Blake Linsley that the 6’4″ junior tight end high-pointed in the right side of the end zone to make it 21-0 at the 9:10 mark of the second stanza. To their credit, Jenison returned the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown and make it a 21-6 game following a failed two-point conversion attempt. It was the only score the Rams allowed in the opening half as Jenison never even got into Rockford territory until late in the contest.



That Wildcat score only spurred Rockford on to greater efforts however. Seven plays later Irwin and Kruisenga hooked up again on another scenic toss that covered four yards and was thrown into a tight window where Kruisenga was the only player from either team that had a chance for the reception. Rockford tacked on another quick score following a fumble recovery by Isaac Galle at the Jenison 20 on the kickoff. Irwin and Kruisenga again did the honors as Irwin tossed a 20-yard strike to a wide-open Kruisenga in the right side of the end zone.



Rockford again stuffed the Wildcats to get the ball back with under three minutes to play in the first half. Using only six plays, Irwin took it the final yard standing up to make it 42-6 with only 56 seconds to play in the half. Everyone assumed that would be it for the scoring but sophomore linebacker Samuel Cummings picked off an errant pass and thundered 30 yards to the end zone on the first play from scrimmage for Jenison after the previous Rockford score. That made it a 49-6 Rockford lead at the break.



The second half featured the Rams getting just about every player on the roster involved from the opening whistle. Jenison finally cracked into the end zone with only 44 seconds left to play to make it a 49-12 final. The win moved Rockford to 3-0 on the season and Jenison fell to 0-3.



That sets the stage for the consensus game of the year next week for the Rams. After playing the first three contests of the year on the road, Rockford finally gets to play in the friendly confines of Carlson-Munger Stadium. And the opponent is none other than the Caledonia Fighting Scots. Caledonia knocked the Rams out of the state playoffs in a double overtime thriller last year by a single point. The Rams had beaten the Scots convincingly a few weeks prior so the stage is set for the return bout featuring two teams ranked in the top five teams in the state regardless of class.


When asked for his thoughts, Cummings replied:

“We are just going to celebrate tonight’s win first and then we as a coaching staff will get to work first thing tomorrow getting ready for an outstanding Caledonia team. It will be a showcase game for our conference between two very good teams and we can’t wait to start preparing for it.



Irwin was 14 for 17 passing for 220 yards and four touchdowns. Kruisenga led the receivers with four catches for 78 yards and three TDs. DeKuiper had three receptions for 58 yards, McCoy Baxter had three for 52 and Linsley had a pair for 18 yards and a touchdown. Ryan Ahern led the rushing attack for the Rams with 66 yards and Irwin added 32 and a pair of TDs. Ahern led the defense with nine tackles and Christian Herrema and Hudson Hensley added eight and seven respectively.