For many West Ottawa sports programs, Rockford is the team to beat. Playfully dubbed “The University of Rockford,” most of their teams have been strong for many years. This fall, though, the Panthers have toppled the Rams in numerous sports.
Previous WO victory: 2011
At home on September 5, the game began with a rainbow over the field. This was a good omen for the Panthers, who broke a six-year losing streak with a 2-1 win. Rockford dominated play early, but two goals by Omar Mireles along with strong play by center-back Drew Pedersen and keeper Sam Beetham led to the victory.
On September 28, the Panthers traveled to Rockford and took a 2-0 lead in the first half on goals by Danny deForest and Mac Strobel, but West Ottawa managed only a draw that night as Rockford scored two second-half goals.
“When we beat Rockford this year I was ecstatic. It was the first big conference win for us and was a great marker for our team that proved to ourselves that we had potential to do some great things. Out of the seven times that I have faced the Rams in high school soccer, this was the first time that we ever came out victorious and it felt amazing,” Sr. Danny deForest said.
Previous WO victory: 2012
At Rockford on October 5, the meet was beyond hyped, both teams coming in as a top-ranked team in the state. Rockford had taken victories in five out of the last six match-ups between these two teams. Beating the Rams was not accomplished easily; it was a tight meet, with the final score 165-150.
Finishing first in both the Individual Medley and the Breaststroke, Caroline Sisson crushed her opponents, which helped seal the win against Rockford. Key first places finishers included Lillian Brandt who competed in the 200 freestyle, Kacey Westenbroek who competed in the 100 Backstroke, and Ayisha Afrik who competed in the 100 freestyle. Again Rockford fell to West Ottawa in the conference championship. Caroline Sisson once again dominated by winning the 200 freestyle and placing second in the 100 breaststroke. Ayisha Afrik took first in the 100 freestyle and second in the 50 freestyle.
“Beating Rockford for the first time in 5 years was a huge accomplishment. Going into the meet we all knew it was going to be a close score. I am extremely proud of my teammates because we definitely gave the meet our all; in the pool and on deck. We actually got yelled at by the official a few times for being too loud on deck. When the score was announced, it was so exciting to watch all my teammates light up with smiles, and shed tears. Beating Rockford will definitely be one of my favorite memories during High School Swim,” Jr. Sydney Bolt said.
Previous WO victory: 2002
After a rainy day, it had cleared up for the time being. The game was everything it was hyped up to be. After the Rockford lead grew to 16, the hopes for West Ottawa began to fade. Then SeanKeese Townsend changed the game. With the help of many blockers, he managed to return the second-half opening kick for a 95-yard touchdown.
Giving the team momentum, it helped the Panthers charge their way into the lead and win the game for the first time in 15 years. The final score was 35-30. This victory helped West Ottawa clinch a share of the O-K Red conference championship and a playoff spot. As the team had beaten Rockford, the team had just been warming up. Beating Rockford once again in the District Championship game 33-28 to win West Ottawa’s first football District Championship in school history.
“The adrenaline was rushing and my heart felt like it was going to fly out of my chest. After not winning for so long, this felt like something we as a team just had to do. As we gathered in the locker room at half, we felt beaten. But we rallied and it was the best game of my life,” Jr. Andrew Pratt said.
Girls Cross Country (Beat Rockford last fall)
Previous WO victory: Never
As the WO Girls Cross Country were thinking about the meet, they could not stop thinking about how tough this would be. But once they hit the course it was on from there. As soon as girls took to running all doubt suddenly disappeared from their minds
As the team began to approach the end of the course, positive thoughts were running through their minds. Experiencing minor fatigue, they pushed harder and harder giving it all they had. Reaching the final stretch all that was on the minds of the Panther girls was getting a victory. The first one ever against the Rams.
“Everyone was ecstatic; Coach Hart was super excited and we felt super confident going into the final conference meet. I remember hearing that we won and feeling like we did something really cool that day,” Iris Swarthout said.