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Loss of scrimmages not lost by Rockford/Lowell coaches in build-up to game

Preparing for a quality opponent for a non conference season-opener is business as usual when you already play in arguably the state’s toughest conference.

“Every school we play in the O-K Red is a quality program. Every week we play quality schools and against quality athletes,” said Rockford football coach Ralph Munger. “I’ve been doing this a long time. We focus and get ready to play regardless of the opponent. This is game one of nine.”

One won’t hear any reservations from Munger about coaching against his good friend Noel Dean, or playing against one of West Michigan’s top football programs.

He saves that for the discontinuation of a scrimmage the two coaches held for players who don’t play much don’t get on the field much during the regular season.

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“Noel and I have collaborated on an effort that allows those kids to play against one another. It’s great for them, for us and for the parents,” Munger explained.

The two West  Michigan coaches have collaborated on what is called a Bubba Scrimmage.

“We did it a couple times a year on a Monday night. It helped in the development of players who otherwise don’t get a lot playing time,” Dean expalined.

That effort has been discontinued since the two schools are scheduled to play this year and in 2012. Munger and Dean have also worked together on 7-on-7 drills in the off season along with a pre-season scrimmage.

With the scrimmage not available, Dean and his Red Arrows had to travel to Howell this year.

As for all the variables the game brings, Dean says he’s not given them much thought.

“I do know the fans are worked up.. They have been waiting for this game and wanting this game,” Dean said.

The Lowell coach is also sure of the schools’ colors. “It will be the orange and black against the red and black.”

Dean and his club are aware of the the challenges the Rams bring.

As to what will await his club on Thursday, “Rockford runs  a lot of misdirection and likes to run the football up and down your throat,” Dean said.  “Games come down to tackling and the offensive lines,” Dean says.

The Red Arrow coach of 15 years points out that playing tough season-openers isn’t new to Lowell.

“Yes, Rockford is a darn good football team, but it’s not as if we haven’t played a lot of good teams to open the season. We’ve played Catholic Central, Davison, Hudsonvile, Grandville and Three Rivers,” Dean explained. “I also know Rockford has two-and-a-half times more students than we do. If you combine Lowell and East Grand Rapids, Rockford would still have 700 more students.

Munger is familiar with that sort of refrain. “Yes, we are one o the largest schools in the state.We also have over 30 varsity sports so the students are spread out,” he explains.

Both team’s enter the 2011 game coming off heartbreaking, season ending losses; Lowell in the Division 2 state championship, and Rockford in the Division I semi final. Both programs have won three state championships over the last 10 years.

“Rockford runs  a lot of misdirection and likes to run the football up and down your throat,” Dean said.  “Games come down to tackling and the offensive lines.”

The Ram coach said he is trying to prepare his club for a game against one of the best athletes in the state in Red Arrow quarterback Gabe Dean.

“Lowell also has a pair of nice receivers,” Munger added. “Lowell is a tough, hard nose, hard working, hard core unselfish team. And it is a program that does things right.”

Rockford’s 12-year veteran coach adds that  the game will not be about the coaches on the sideline. “It will be about the kids and how well they play the game inside the lines,” he concludes.