Rockford turns away Eisenhower in season opener

By: Thomas Franz | Shelby - Utica News | Published September 3, 2013

 Eisenhower's Nate Emery attempts to break away from Rockford's Tyler Bradfield and Randy Garvin.

Eisenhower's Nate Emery attempts to break away from Rockford's Tyler Bradfield and Randy Garvin.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

UTICA  — In a cross-state season opener, Rockford used a heavy rush attack on offense to defeat Utica Eisenhower 23-6 on Aug. 30. 

Darian Vaughn was the top ball carrier for Rockford with 21 carries, 154 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown.
Quarterback Austin McKellar ran 12 times for 24 yards and a touchdown, and CJ Farmer added six carries for 56 yards to pace the Rams. Rockford coach Ralph Munger said their rushing attack that included six ball carriers is typical of his offense. 

“We’ve always been like that. It’s been by committee. They’re pretty close in talent this year, and we’re going to play as many of them as we can,” Munger said. “Darian and the whole gang, I thought they did a pretty good job tonight. I would’ve liked to see it better, but for game one I’ll live with it.”

The contest opened as a defensive struggle while each offense struggled to establish their respective game plans early on. Eisenhower’s Shane Pettke recovered a Rockford fumble inside the Rockford 5, but the Eagles’ offense was forced into settling for a field goal by Eric Dulinski to take a 3-0 lead going into the second quarter.

Rockford responded with an eight play, 74-yard drive that was capped off by McKellar’s quarterback sneak for a touchdown. 

Following two Quinn Nordin field goals for Rockford, Eisenhower’s offense had once again been given great field position inside the Rockford 25 following of a fumble recovery on a punt play, but the Eagles were forced into another field goal, as Rockford’s defense turned them away. 

“They got after it; they got off the ball well,” Munger said while talking about his defensive line. “The big thing, I think, in the beginning until they started rollouts, was that we got off of blocks instead of staying blocked, so I think that was key, but we were happy to see that. We need that to happen for us.”

Although Eisenhower’s defense gave the offense great scoring opportunities, it was never able to take advantage.

“We’re a very young offense and we made some mistakes in the red zone, but when you got a young team, you have to expect that not everything is going to go right your way, especially on offense," said Eisenhower coach Chris Smith.

Despite its defensive dominance, Rockford kept on giving Eisenhower opportunities to come back in the game. With 10 minutes left in the game up 13-6, Rockford fumbled again and Eisenhower took over inside Rockford territory.

But an inception followed on the first play of the ensuing possession, and Rockford turned to its rushing attack to close out the game. The Rams took more than five minutes off the clock on its next drive, a 13-play possession that resulted in Nordin’s third field goal of the night.

Rockford’s defense forced four straight incompletions on Eisenhower’s next possession, and then Darian Vaughn sealed the game with a 24-yard touchdown run. 

“He’s (Vaughn) a young man who has stepped into his starting role this year. He still has a long way to go; he still has a lot of things to work on. I don’t like fumbles, so we need to learn to take care of the ball,” Munger said. 

Despite the Eagles’ slow night on offense, Smith was still encouraged by his team’s performance against a highly ranked team in the state.

“We still had a chance to win that game, so for us to come out and have a measuring stick against one of the top teams in Michigan and know that we were in the game with five minutes left to go says a lot about our guys,” Smith said. “This will help prepare us for the types of teams we’re going to play.”