MUSKEGON — After a couple of rough weeks, Reeths-Puffer needed a palate-cleanser, and it got one in an impressive 48-20 win over Holland Friday in O-K Green Conference action.
As he has much of the season, sophomore running back Brody Johnson spearheaded the R-P attack, going for 241 yards rushing and three touchdowns on only 14 carries. However, Johnson suffered what appeared to be a sprained ankle in the third quarter and was unable to finish the game. He was on crutches by the final whistle.
"It's a big toll on the team, because he's one of the powerhouses for us," R-P lineman Marco Fields said. "If we just keep thinking about it, it will just bring us down. Right now, coming to practice Monday, we just have to get other running backs going and see what we can do."
Fields and his linemates were a big part of Johnson's success and also protected quarterback Ben Veihl very well, as Veihl was never sacked and rarely pressured. Fields said the position group communicated well despite having to shuttle in new faces due to injury.
"We changed some things up with our blocking schemes to get some better angles," Bird said. "I think tempo really got to them too, and so our kids were really able to execute and keep things really simple."
The win, and R-P's sharp play in it, was refreshing after lopsided defeats to Mona Shores and Zeeland West the past two weeks, losses that still smart on Bird's end.
"So much of the high school game is about momentum, and the last few weeks we've had some things that definitely spun out of our control quickly on us," Bird said. "When you play against programs like that, that are traditionally set, things can spin fast. It's good for us to get ourselves into a good set here."
The Rockets started the game going to the air with Veihl, who connected on three deep balls for scores to three different wide open receivers on his team's first three possessions. Veihl missed last week's game against Mona Shores with an illness, and his return was welcome. He was 7-of-10 for 142 yards and those touchdowns, one each to Tayte Vanderleest, Jarren Vanderberg and Jaxson Whitaker.
The Rockets (3-4, 2-3 O-K Green) face maybe their tallest task of the season next week against the Muskegon Big Reds, who routed Mona Shores Friday night. It's a task that gets doubly difficult if R-P is without Johnson, but Bird said the key to the game will be his team staying on assignment.
"You really have to play assignment football because everything happens so fast," Bird said. "You can't get yourself stuck looking inside and things like that. It's going to be important to see what our role is, do that role to the best of our ability and let the chips fall where they may."