Rockford hosted Davison on Saturday, November 11 in a battle of unbeaten powerhouse football programs on a crip, clear night in a packed Carlson-Munger Stadium. Both teams featured lethal offenses that averaged well north of 40 points per contest and a high-scoring affair would have surprised nobody. But the opposite scenario played out as Davison took a narrow 7-0 lead into the half and eventually claimed a 28-14 victory that sent them into the semifinals next week against Belleville with a record of 12-0 while the Rams finished with a mark of 11-1.
It was an exasperating night for Rockford as they had ten total possessions on the night and advanced well into Davison territory on eight of them. Six of those eight possessions got inside the 25-yard line. But they all came away with the same result as the Rams came up empty every single time. Both of the Ram touchdowns came on plays of over 70 yards . They just did not have an answer to an aggressive Cardinal defense that ran blitzes constantly and bewildered the Ram offense for the first time this season. Davison was determined to take Ryan Ahern out of play and succeeded for the most part with an assortment of run blitzes that saw the bruising Ram running back often being hit in the backfield. To Ahern’s credit he still ripped off a few big runs but was stymied multiple times when the Rams advanced deep into Cardinal territory.
The Ram defense held their own for the most part, but of the five times Davison got into Ram territory they came away with four touchdowns. To be fair though, one of those came following a Ram fumble on a trick play attempt that gave Davison the ball at the Rockford 10. And that score came on a bizarre play where the Rams batted down a pass that deflected perfectly to a Cardinal receiver for the score.
“We enjoyed every minute of this season with these kids,” said Rockford coach Brent Cummings. “It wasn’t a perfect season but I really believe we had a chance and these kids had a heck of a ride and there are lots of things they will look back on with a ton of pride. Davison had a heck of a game plan, they are a very talented team, but we had the chance to make a lot of plays and came up empty while they were able to take advantage of their opportunities. You would like to have the opportunity to have some of those plays back and our offensive coordinator would like to have some of those plays back but you can’t and there is a lesson there. But we ultimately just go back to being so proud of all of them for their accomplishments this year.”
Davison received the opening kickoff and executed a pair of long passes, including one on a fourth down and three-play that set them up at the Ram 1. A QB sneak put them on the board with 7:52 left in the opening quarter and it was a 7-0 Cardinal lead right out of the gate. The Rams got to the Davison 25 on their opening salvo before turning the ball over on downs. The Ram defense then exerted themselves over the balance of the half including forcing a pair of turnovers but came away empty each and every time. Rockford threw an interception from the Cardinal 14, turned it over on downs at the Davison 37, missed a field goal after getting to the Davison 19 and ran out of time at the Cardinal 38 as the half expired.
Junior linebacker Kade Friesen was seemingly everywhere for the Ram defense as he constantly exerted pressure on the Davison quarterback. He forced a fumble and an errant pass that was interepted by Sam Cummings to highlight a swarming Ram defensive effort in the opening half.
Davison took a 14-0 lead on their opening drive of the second half on another one-yard sneak. It was at that point that the Rams fumbled a pitch that set the Cardinals up at the Ram 10-yard line. The tipped pass TD followed and it was a 21-0 game with 5:12 left in the third quarter. Junior Ram safety and return specialist Isaac Poot then made a stunning play on the ensuing kickoff that energized a huge Ram turnout that had gone mostly silent. Poot gathered in the kick at his own one and then sped directly up the middle. Using a pair of feints, he then averted a pair of Cardinal defenders and flew past the remainder of the safety valves for a 99-yard score to make it a 21-7 game.
The Ram defense forced a quick three and out and the crowd really started roaring as they sensed a Ram comeback for the ages. But after getting to the Cardinal 5 on a drive that included a 27-yard burst from Ahern, the Rams turned it over on downs at the Cardinal five-yard line. Davison pretty much clinched the contest at that juncture as they went on a 93-yard TD march that made it a 28-7 contest with just 5:01 to play.
To their credit the Rams quickly answered again. This time Drake Irwin hooked up with Cam Kruizenga for a 71-yard touchdown pass on their first play from scrimmage following the Davison score to make it a 28-14 game. After an unsuccessful onside kick, the Rams got the ball back for one final possession and again advanced into Cardinal territory before a game ending interception sealed the deal for the Cardinals.