The Rams kick off their home opener against Lowell. ~ Photo by Miles J Postema
Rockford opened the 2019 home football season with a 24-7 victory over the Lowell Red Arrows at Ted Carlson Memorial Stadium Friday, Sept. 6. The win kept the Rams unblemished on the season at 2-0 as they prepare to open the OK Red campaign this upcoming Friday (Sept. 13) at Holland West Ottawa.
Rockford rode an unrelenting rushing attack and an efficient passing game to methodically wear down Lowell over the long run. For the game, the Rams totaled 315 yards on the ground led by four ball carriers. Senior fullback Jaiden Friesen again led the way with 118 yards on 18 carries, while junior Ethan Nash amassed 99 yards on just five attempts. Both Friesen and Nash accounted for touchdowns for Rockford, with Nash sprinting for a 70-yard score on a counter in the opening quarter and Friesen capping off the scoring with a bruising 10-yard burst late in the contest. Senior Jackson Moseley added 67 yards on ten carries, while junior Jacob Vega accounted for 30 yards while toting the rock eight times.
After the early score from Nash, the Ram defense largely kept the Lowell offense in check while wasting several chances to expand the lead in the opening half. A blocked 39-yard field goal and an interception while deep in Red Arrow territory seemingly was going to leave Rockford with a tenuous 7-0 lead as the two teams neared the halftime horn. But, a late Rockford drive left them at the Lowell 11 with only five seconds remaining on the clock. Rockford lined up to attempt a 28-yard field goal at that juncture, but Lowell called timeout just prior to the snap. As luck would have it, that kick was also blocked but that was negated by the timeout call.
That set the stage for what ultimately proved to be an extremely decisive play that helped determine the eventual tenor of the contest. Eschewing every rule of common football tactics, the Rams rolled back out with their offense and opted to go for the touchdown. As the ball was snapped, junior quarterback Chris Corey rolled to his left and fired a hitch to senior wide receiver Bradley Rohen-Blanton just over the goal line and just inside the sideline. Rohen-Blanton deftly tapped both feet down in-bounds while reeling in the pass to make it a 14-0 Ram halftime lead after the second of three successful extra points from junior kicker Teagen Lenderink.
Rockford offensive coordinator Steve Dengler felt confident on the play call if the Rams were able to execute the intricate and risky pass.
"The block that didn't count definitely played a part in our decision to roll the dice and go for the touchdown," said Dengler. "When they called the time out, it gave us time to think. And the play call is one we really work at when we get near the goal line. We got the coverage we thought we would when they double-teamed Eli (Haddad). That left single coverage on the near receiver and Chris (Corey) and Bradley (Rohen-Blanton) both executed the play to perfection. We have had a lot of success over the years with that exact same play and that was just another instance of our players being able to be successful in a key situation."
The other score for the evening for Rockford came when Lenderink drilled a 41-yard field goal that pushed the Rockford lead to 17-7. The Ram score was after a Lowell TD on their opening drive of the second half that made it a 14-7 game. The Lenderink field goal on the ensuing possession and a later Ram defensive stop after Lowell had driven to the Ram five, kept the Rockford lead at two scores (17-7).
The Friesen score with just under two minutes remaining cemented the 24-7 Rockford win and sent the sizable contingent of Ram fans home in a gleeful mood.
"We have to get more physical in our efforts to tackle consistently," said acting head coach Randy VanderVeen. "We were consistently too high when attempting to make the tackle all night long. We knew Lowell was going to come in here and play really hard. We could see on the film that they play fast and have very good athletes at several positions."
Corey was eight for eleven passing for 89 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Haddad led the Rockford receiving corps with three catches for 44 yards while Nash added 22 on a pair of receptions.
Junior linebackers Ben Tadych and Cole Gleason paced the Ram defense with 15 and 10 tackles, respectively. Senior Ian Brofft chipped in with nine tackles and senior linebacker Reid Nicholson added eight of his own to help pad a solid effort from the Ram linebackers as a whole.
Next week's away contest with West Ottawa kicks off at 7 p.m. The Panthers fell to 0-2 with a 30-7 loss to Forest Hills Central tonight. The Panthers have topped Rockford three times in the last two seasons, including knocking Rockford out of the playoffs two seasons ago, so revenge will definitely be a factor as the Rams look to begin conference play in a victorious fashion.
Jackson Moseley carries the ball against Lowell. ~ Photo by Miles J Postema
The Ram defense was strong against the Red Arrows. ~ Photo by Miles J Postema