Running back Brody Leonard staked Southside to a 12-0 lead at halftime on touchdown runs of 50 and 10 yards. The second score, set up by a Garrett Blair interception returned 30 yards, had the Eagles, seemingly, comfortably ahead at the break.
That’s when the Tigers kicked it in.
Isaiah Hannah got Rockford going with a 50-yard end run to cut the deficit to 12-6. Later in the half, Bradley Decker punched in to even the score and, with the two-point conversion, the Tigers claimed their first championship in the team’s 4-year-old history.
The key for Rockford was a never-say-die attitude and a change in strategy at halftime. Looking to keep everybody back to defend against Leonard’s long runs — the Southside speedster had a third score of 60 yards called back on a penalty — the Tigers altered their approach in the second half and brought the blitz.
The change in strategy produced the turnovers Rockford needed to get back in it, but it would take all the 5-4 Tigers had to hold on.
Southside made a last, valiant attempt to pull it out, driving to the Rockford 10-yard line in the closing seconds. Thanks to a goal-line stand, the Tigers hung on to walk away victors as time expired.