Photo by Miles Postema
By Randy Gregory
Three weeks ago, the Rockford football team had fallen to 1-3 on the season and seen their defense repeatedly gashed for one big play after another. Those unpleasant memories have faded behind a defensive resurgence and an offense that continues to do just enough to prevail on the scoreboard for the Rams.
The latest chapter of redemption for the Rams took place Friday, Oct. 5, at Hudsonville on a dreary, drizzly evening that saw Rockford prevail 13-7.
Over the last three contests, the Rams have allowed a grand total of 13 points while scoring 76 of their own. The win moves the Rams record to 4-3 on the season and 3-1 in OK Red play. Rockford also remains firmly in control of their own destiny as far as at least a share of the OK Red crown and their 24th consecutive Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) berth. Wins over Grandville and East Kentwood the final two weeks of the regular season will secure both of those outcomes for Rockford.
"Our defense really played hard and made plays when they were needed tonight," said Rockford coach Ralph Munger. "We are working to develop an attitude that will continue to carry over into game action and allow us to continue to have success as a team. There were so many different things that happened tonight that could have had a negative effect on the game, but a number of our boys really put forth enough of an effort to ensure that we came out on top."
It was the Ram defense that showed the way against the Eagles with no less than 14 plays that resulted in lost yardage for the Eagles. It seemed that at every turn or Hudsonville attempt to find their way to the Rockford end zone, it was Cade Klimczak, Ian Rodriguez or Austin Klein who were there for the Rams to stymie the Eagle forays into Rockford territory.
Klimczak in particular was a thorn in the Eagles side.
"Cade Klimczak was a man out there tonight," said Rockford defensive coordinator Randy VanderVeen. "He plays the game with so much heart and determination. We are just glad that he is a Ram. The entire defense was just totally awesome tonight. When we play the game and execute the way we practice we can be very good. I think the tough competition we faced earlier this season has really benefited the team."
Sophomore kicker Teagen Lenderink also played a vital role in the win for Rockford as he nailed a 38-yard field goal in the first quarter to give the Rams their only points of the first half. Hudsonville scored their only points of the night in the second quarter on a 7-yard swing pass while facing a third-and-seven play from the Rockford seven-yard line. The Eagles were extremely fortunate to get that score as they fumbled a snap on a field goal a few plays earlier and tossed up a scramble prayer pass that was answered and set them up inside the Rockford five-yard line.
The third quarter proved decisive for the Rams as they scored the only ten points of the second half in those twelve minutes to take a lead they would not relinquish in earning the win. Lenderink duplicated his earlier 38-yard field goal to make it a 7-6 game with 8:14 to play. That score was set up by a Rockford fumble recovery at the Eagle 31. Ram kicker Teagan Lenderink
"I was thrilled for Teagen tonight in being able to make those two field goals, " said Munger. "He kept us in the game while we tried to finish a drive that would enable us to get a lead."
The final Rockford scoring drive was set up by a 45-yard run by Ram senior Jack Richardson. Two plays later, and facing a third-and-eight at the Hudsonville 28, the Rams finally crossed the goal line. The scoring play was a beautifully thrown and caught pass from Chris Corey to Eli Haddad. Corey spotted Haddad facing man coverage in the left side of the end zone with 2:40 left in the third stanza.
Hudsonville managed to get to the Ram 13 and 21 yard line in the final quarter but they were turned away empty handed both times. First down runs from Jaiden Friesen and Connor White ate up the final few minutes of the game clock and helped ensure the win for Rockford.
With the loss, Hudsonville fell to 5-2 on the year and sits at 3-1 in OK Red, where they are tied with Rockford. East Kentwood remains the only unblemished team (4-0) in conference play. Rockford will host their final home game - which is Homecoming - Friday, Oct. 12. They will then travel to East Kentwood, Friday, Oct. 19, for their final regular-season game.
Ram Eli Haddad scores against Hudsonville. ~ Photo by Miles Postema
Jack Richardson gets the handoff from the Ram quarterback. ~ Photo by Miles Postema