No pomp. No circumstance. The seemingly quiet Ted stadium turned on it’s lights for Friday’s Rockford Rams home opener against the Jenison Wilcats. The parking lot was void of tail gating, no families playing catch or corn hole while awaiting gates to be open. No lines were queued early in anticipation of getting a good seat. Temperatures were taken at the gate and masks were checked to ensure proper wear for the duration of the game. Families of players were limited to two tickets to attend Friday’s game, leaving many to miss their first football game ever.
With all the changes, the smaller crowd, the lack of bands and dance troops, the tension seemed to crackle within the stands. Adjustments were being made in real time as everyone took in what Friday night under the lights would now be like. Then a voice was heard over the crowd “lets go welcome our Rams into their stadium” and as if on queue, every fan rose and awaited their Rams arrival. The Rockford Rams came into the stadium in their traditional, arm in arm manner, with captains senior Luke McLean, senior Ben Tadych and senior Alex Karas guiding the way, their new head coach Brent Cummings leading from behind. As the players ran onto the field a sense of normalcy began to return and the stadium roared to life with fan fare.
As the Rams and Wildcats took to the field and the fan fare fell silent.You could hear a pin drop while everyone in attendance seemed to collectively hold their breath; as the much anticipated season began. As the first snap took place, the air seemed to return to the stadium and the Rams season had officially begun. With a quick three and out for the Wildcats, the Rams would make it clear that once again; their defense came to play. Baubles and mis-queues would plague both teams offensively for the first half of the game, no doubt a result of time off from a season being cancelled then subsequently reinstated at lightening speed. Despite the relentless throwing efforts of quarterback Zak Ahern and middle line backer Cole Gleason, the Rams would go into half time scoreless. The Wildcats would find themselves with a slight 3 point lead after delivering a twenty one yard field goal before going into half time.
As nighttime fell upon the stadium and a chill hit the air the Rams came out fired up and ready to take over. The Rams defense would dominate the Wildcats with heavy hitting from junior Sam Watts and senior Cole Gleason. Watts would force the Wildcats to bauble the ball allowing him to snatch it up and run seventy six yards for the Rams first touchdown of the night. The Wildcats would return the call with a slow march to the Rams end zone, walking a touchdown in on third down. The score heading into the last five minutes of the fourth quarter would see the Wildcats leading 10-7. A Rams interception wouldn’t diminish the defenses fight for victory as they kept the Wildcats at bay forcing them to punt.With only one minute thirty nine seconds left in the game, junior quarterback Zak Ahern would lead the Rams down the field to the Wildcats fourteen yard line. Sophomore Jackson Burkholder would set up for a successful thirty one yard field goal that would send the game into over time with a tied score of 10-10.
The Ted seemed to burst alive as though the stadium were packed in its normal tradition. Those in attendance began to rally in cheers as they saw their captains of the game head to the middle of the field for the coin toss that would take them into the first over time of the season. The Wildcats would take to the field first in an effort to snatch victory from the Rams. However, they would be met by the Rams powerhouse defense and be held to a field goal,
The Rams would take their turn on the field with three unsuccessful attempts to take over the game. With the Rams victory seeming to slip away, the ball was snapped for the fourth time and a collective hush fell over the stadium. Quarterback Zak Ahern would fake to the left, make a seamless cut to the right and rush toward the end zone careening over the pylon, for a Rams touchdown. An explosion of cheers took over the stadium, the Rams sideline cleared in a matter of seconds as players sprinted for the end zone, to congratulate Ahern. The Rams would end their first game of the 2020 season with a 10-16 victory.
The Rams would end their night in a truly spectacular manner with a careening hurdle to success led by the belief in their team, their coaches and themselves. As the night came to a close head coach Brent Cummings summed up the game and the season ahead in one succinct phrase “keep the belief”. As the Rams go on the road to play the Caledonia Fighting Scots for their second game of the season, we will indeed “keep our belief”and we hope the Rams do too.
Published on September 24th in the Rockford Squire Newspaper