Hudsonville, once again, ends Rockford’s season
Rockford – Friday’s rematch between OK Red Division rivals Hudsonville and Rockford in a Division 1 district final at Ted Carlson Memorial Stadium ended up being a total mismatch.
It was a Hudsonville rout right from the start.
The 24th-ranked Eagles ran up a huge lead at halftime and rolled to a 37-15 victory against the host Rams. It marked the second consecutive season Hudsonville has ousted Rockford on its own turf to claim a district title.
“It just feels great,” said Eagles coach Dave Lidgard, whose team avenged a 28-27 regular-season defeat to the Rams on Sept. 19. “We had a losing record in the conference, and that really kind of upset these kids. It really did. We played good football, but we didn’t help ourselves out.
“So, to come in and win a district championship, it feels great.”
Hudsonville (7-4) has outscored its first two opponents in the postseason, 68-28.
The tandem of senior quarterback Mason Opple and senior running back Kyle Toth provided a one-two punch that hammered the Rams. Opple led the Eagles with 21 rushing attempts for 208 yards and two touchdowns, and Toth had 14 attempts for 143 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the second half.
Opple was 4-of-7 for 80 yards, including an 18-yard touchdown pass. He teamed up with senior wide receiver Kaden Kempker, who made a fingertip catch with 36.4 seconds left before halftime.
“It’s just awesome. I’m at a loss for words. It’s a great feeling,” Opple said of knocking off the Rams again in the playoffs. “It hurt to lose like that by one (in the regular season). To beat Rockford here in the playoffs, that’s awesome.
“We like where we’re at right now.”
The Eagles, who claimed the 10th district title in the program’s history, could end up facing a third successive OK Red opponent in the postseason. They defeated West Ottawa, 31-13, in the playoff opener.
“If we have to go back to (Red Division member) East Kentwood, we’ll give it our best shot,” Lidgard said of facing the winner of Saturday’s Grand Ledge-East Kentwood game. “We had a heck of a game with those guys last time.”
Hudsonville scored on four of its five possessions in the first half.
Logan Bylsma booted a 27-yard field goal to open the scoring. Opple then had touchdown runs of 27 and 54 yards to go with his scoring pass to Kempker. The only blemish was a missed 42-yard field goal midway through the second quarter that had plenty of distance but was wide left.
Toth’s 2-yard touchdown run pushed the advantage to 30-0 at the 6:22 mark of the third quarter. He added a 56-yard scoring run in the fourth.
“I think our offensive line tonight deserves a lot of credit. I think we did a lot of good things,” Lidgard said. “I think we had a good surge upfront to run the ball. Mason and Kyle ran the ball well; they’re horses.”
Rockford (8-3) scored a pair of touchdowns late in the third quarter.
Senior Ethan LaCourt had a 1-yard scoring run at the 3:08 mark. Following a successful onside kick, the Rams got a 29-yard scoring run from senior Tyler Bradfield and two-point pass from senior quarterback Landen Haney to senior tight end Reid Martin.
Haney finished 9-of-19 passing for 105 yards and one interception.