Football loses to Grand Ledge, but still looks towards playoffs

Rangers lose to 35-20 on the road

Jordan George, Sports Writer

Junior Jack Uecker caught the Grand Ledge kick off at the one yard line and made a break for free space. Lumbering down the sideline, Uecker made multiple Grand Ledge defenders miss before finally being dragged down at the opponent’s 30-yard line.

That play was one of the bright spots in the Rangers’ hard-fought 35-20 road loss against Lansing-area power Grand Ledge. As the Rangers look to learn from the game and improve for their week two matchup versus Grand Haven, head coach Tim Rogers is encouraged by his team’s performance against a tough Grand Ledge team.

Grand Ledge may be the best team in the Lansing area,” said Rogers, who is entering his fourth year at the helm for the Rangers. “We gave them all they could handle and could have won if not for some first game mistakes. We competed at a high level with a very good team. I am encouraged moving forward.”

Senior captain Bryson Schneider is also encouraged by the team’s opening performance, praising the effort of the Rangers’ younger players.

“Grand ledge is a good football team,” said Schneider, who starts on the offensive and defensive line. “The fact that we scored before them was a big plus on our part. Without the minimal mistakes on both sides of the ball, I think we did a great job. Our younger players performed when needed. We just need to keep our heads up and prepare for next week.”

Schneider emphasized the importance of intense practices in order to prepare the team for tough competition.

“We need to practice like we play,” said Schneider, who starts on the offensive and defensive line. “A more intense practice leads to less thinking on the field and more pursuit to the ball.”

The Rangers’ struggles against Grand Ledge occurred mostly on the defensive side of the ball, with uncontested touchdowns through the air for the Comets. Head coach Tim Rogers recognizes the defensive struggles, but is confident that it will improve.

The defense needs to execute at a higher level and remember their rules and responsibilities on each play,” said Rogers. “The younger players struggled most with conditioning. The pace of the game wore them down quickly. Now that they have gone through it once, I expect them to be fine.”

One intriguing storyline heading into week one was the performance of junior Tanner Hallock, who is beginning his first season as the starting quarterback for the Rangers. His opening performance was impressive, as he made progress on the ground and through the air, including a fourth quarter touchdown pass to sophomore Bryce Clay. Hallock is known in the area as a punishing runner, as well as a capable passer. Hallock thought that the first game went well, but there is still room for improvement.

“All of the young players stepped up and did great,” said Hallock, who was on the team as a sophomore last year. “We just need to read our keys and know our roles.”

As Ranger football begins another year in the brutally tough OK-White, the team and coaching staff is confident that the Rangers can have a break-through year and make it back to the playoffs, a place they haven’t been since 2011. The offense of the Rangers has been much talked about due to the skill players.

“I think our offense is very strong,” said Hallock. “Our run game is very strong and we’ve got amazing skill players.”

Rogers echoed his quarterback’s thoughts about the high-powered offense and speed that the Rangers will showcase this year.

I think we have excellent team speed,” said Rogers. “We will utilize our speed on offense, defense and special teams.”

Another important factor that will be vital to the team’s success will be the presence of strong senior leaders, including seniors Dylan Otolski, Matt Mills, Lorik Canaj, and Schneider. Schneider knows that the leaders play a vital role in the success of the team and will ultimately decide how well the rangers fare this year.

“Being a captain, my job is to make sure that the younger men learn how to become leaders,” said Schneider. “The only way to do that is to lead by example. We try and motivate our players to the best of our ability. So I’d say that we depend a lot on them.”

Hallock praised the seniors for their encouraging effect on the team, and also recognizes the leadership of younger players as well.

“I think as much as our seniors help we’ve got a good chunk of really good young leaders as well,” said Hallock. “Personally I’m going to give it my all and take it very serious out there and try to change this program around.”

Rogers recognizes that the seniors act as leaders not only on the field, but off it as well.

“The older players set the town for how we practice, play and conduct ourselves,” said Rogers. “They are instrumental to the program’s success. I try to encourage them to be examples in their daily lives because people (younger players) are watching them. We have a great group of seniors who are role models for our younger players.”

In terms of goals for the season, there is no doubt among the players as to what they are seeking: a playoff birth.

“Our number one goal is to win the conference and get back to the playoffs,” said Rogers.

In a conference that includes multiple state title contenders, the Rangers will have a tall task in front of them, but the players and coaching staff both believe that they will bring it all together and finally break through to the playoffs for the first time in 5 years.

“I’m speaking for everyone on this one,” said Schneider. “I, along with everyone else, want to make the playoffs.”