Visiting Rockford made sure of it right from the opening kickoff and pretty much the rest of the way, as the Rams stamped their achievement of becoming outright champions in the O-K Red Conference following a 45-7 thrashing of the Bucs.
Grand Haven sees its three-year playoff streak end, while head coach Mike Farley finishes with just his second losing in his six-year tenure as head coach.
“Unfortunately, we ended up 3-6, but I honestly don’t believe we’re a 3-6 football team,” he said. “If we could have had a couple breaks here and there go our way, it could have been a different story.”
But the Bucs’ story didn’t have many happy endings this fall. With inexperience dominating the roster, the Bucs had little room for error. They surely couldn’t allow the favored Rams to thrive on some early trickery, either.
Rockford caught the opening kickoff and quickly had four players huddle in a star formation, which created confusion on the Bucs’ kick defense unit. By the time Grand Haven figured out who had the ball, it was too late, as Rockford’s Devin Jager broke free at midfield and raced 99 yards for a school-record touchdown return.
“That’s a great way to start,” said Rockford coach Ralph Munger, whose squad is 7-2 overall. “We’ve been doing that (trick play) throughout my entire coaching career and during my entire 21 years here.”
Grand Haven’s run defense was up to the challenge early, and they also got a boost on a blocked field goal by senior Matt Mulcahy midway through the first quarter.
But the Bucs’ defense was on the field too often due to Grand Haven’s offensive struggles. The Bucs managed just one yard on 18 carries throughout the first half, as well as 46 total yards of offense. The advantage in first downs at the half was decisively in Rockford’s favor at 13-3.
Rockford blew the contest open with three second-quarter touchdowns. Its first was aided by Munger switching things up and going to a hurry-up offense, which caught the Bucs off guard. The long Rams’ 60-yard, 11-play drive featured all run plays, and was capped by a 5-yard sweep from running back Connor Grady.
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