FHC Football 2016: A Season to Remember

The 2016 Ranger football season was one for the history books and a run for glory that inspired an entire community. Joe Freihofer finalizes the magical season.

Joe Freihofer, Sports Reporter

Tim Rogers headed into his fifth season as the head football coach following two back to back 2-7 seasons. The program lost a talented senior class filled with athletes who poured themselves into the program and were pioneers to Rogers’ process that he was working to establish. This year, the team sat overlooking a new frontier. The new OK White conference gave Rogers, and the team, a brand new challenge and an opportunity to thrive. They were heading into the season with one of the most well rounded and deep rosters the program has had in years. Mixed with solid team chemistry and a hunger to improve with every practice, the 2016 Ranger football team was born, and stole our hearts from the very first game. Mark Scannell discussed how the process over the summer was so important.

“I think the team this year was super close compared to years past,” Mark said. “We did so much outside of football, and we bonded really well as a team. That is something that I will never forget. We had a lot of guys that were not only talented but came in and worked hard. If you mix the talent we had with hard work and getting into the weight room and staying dedicated over the summer, then it’ll go pretty well, like we displayed this year.”

The season began with a high flying 21-0 victory over the Jenison Wildcats on a beautiful evening in late August. Injuries over the summer were a slight problem for the Rangers and seniors Tanner Hallock and Luke Heneveld suffered their own during the first game. Mark filled in for an injured Tanner in this game at quarterback and displayed his best performance of the entire season. Mark threw two touchdown passes and led the offense down the field. For some on the team, this was the moment when they realized that they had something special this year. For others, like senior captain Sal Sidebotham, they knew they had it before the season began.

“I just knew it in the summer,” Sal said, “I knew how hard we worked and how talented we were. For me, it was right at the beginning. I was just so excited for it all.”

The team’s momentum slowly began to snowball. One win turned into two, two into three, and the team slowly began to realize their potential. They grew closer with each other as the weeks on the lower turf passed them by. But they were truly tested after a heartbreaking one point loss to conference opponent Greenville. The game went all the way down to the wire, ending in a dramatic incompletion that cost FHC the victory. Through it all, they grew more resilient, tenacious, and hungry to keep driving forward. They went on to win two straight games after the defeat at home, including a 25-0 victory against their new conference rivals FHN. Tanner aired it out all night long to receivers like senior Jack Uecker and junior Bryce Clay. The Rangers pounded the Huskies with an all out offensive attack. A tuned in defensive performance sealed the deal for the Rangers, and created a memory that the players will never forget. As the final seconds of the game drew to a close, the muddied but victorious Rangers shook the hands of FHN and then began to belly slide through the mud with pure bliss across their faces. A life long memory was created that symbolized the season so perfectly; the Rangers were enjoying every second of their journey, and it was only the beginning.

They soon found themselves in the biggest week of their season to date: Lowell week. Everyone on the team knew how important the game was and came ready to take on their bitter rivals. The FHC Ranger football team had not defeated the Red Arrows in 17 straight years, and the boys were looking to shatter that trend.

FHC fought relentlessly in the first half, leading 30-13 at the break. Lowell had started out hot with a kick return on the very first play of the game, but the Rangers shrugged it off and went all out against their bitter foe. The second half, however, did not go FHC’s way. The Rangers struggled to maintain their momentum on offense, and the tired Ranger defense was being picked apart by Lowell’s ground and pound offensive strategy. Lowell opened it up on the ground and in the air, overwhelming the Rangers and leaving them without enough time to make up for their offensive lulls. They lost the game 41-37, sending a shock wave of confusion and disappointment throughout the FHC faithful. Despite it all, the boys discovered that they could take on any team in the state, and recognized that it was only a matter of a few errors and missed opportunities that cost them the game. They would not slow down after the loss, blowing through every single opponent that came their way, including their remarkable playoff birth that had the entire community pulling for them. The 2016 Rangers were on their way to making history, winning their first district championship since 1994, and changing the minds of all of the Ranger football faithful about how far the program can go. They proved people wrong, wowed others, and showed everyone how much they love this community and how much they had invested in the game. After all of the hype and state championship talk, they found themselves at Bob Perry field once again. Standing between them and the state semis were their good pals from Lowell. It was a game for the ages, and it seemed as if everyone in the Forest Hills community was there to take it in.

It was a frigid Friday night at Lowell’s home stadium in an atmosphere that Coach Rogers was quite familiar with. He knew that his team was only inches away from defeating them just weeks before. The mentality for the game was to fight relentlessly for four straight quarters, not beating themselves, and battling for the community and for the opportunity of a lifetime: a state championship. The stakes could not have been any higher, and the atmosphere was buzzing with emotion and excitement. It was a bloody back and forth battle between the two conference heavyweights. FHC seemed to find a slow but steady rhythm on offense, passing consistently down the field and running the ball well inside the box. Lowell, however, was playing high tempo ground and pound football as usual and kept the FHC defense guessing on every play. It seemed like the defensive line was getting washed out frequently and the Red Arrows ended up pulling away with a win after a stellar interception on defense. FHC’s wonder season ended at Bob Perry field, and the emotion finally began to pour out. The senior class of this year’s team did more for the program then they could ever imagine.  Rogers could not have been more pleased with the legacy that the team left behind.

“Our seniors were the key to this season,” Rogers said. “They were very inclusive and everyone got along. This is why we had such good team chemistry. They led by example and were hard working, committed individuals who led with their actions.”

Rogers also talked about how the seniors paved the way for the other classes to come in and continue the process that they had started.

“We lost a great senior class,” Rogers said. “We have a lot of good players returning. The JV went undefeated, and the freshman only lost one game. All of them saw what it takes to win this year,  so [this season] will be the legacy that the seniors leave to this program.”

Seniors Alec Elzinga and Anthony DeLapp wanted the community to remember them by how hard they worked and what they invested into the program. Both Anthony and Alec were key to this year’s sound defensive play.

“I want [the future athletes] to remember us by our work ethic,” Alec said. “We wanted it so badly for the community. [This season] was truly amazing.”

There seemed to be a common message from the players and the coach of continuing the work that the team began this year. They made a run to the playoffs for the first time in 21 years, they won the district championship, and they showed what it takes to come away with an incredible season.  Mark reflected on the journey and what advice he would give to the young kids coming through the ranks.

“The school and community will never forget what this year’s team, and especially it’s seniors, did for all of us. From the school spirit, to the relationships built between classes, to coming together as one and rallying around each other. This season was truly one to remember.”