Improved passing game and continued success on the ground leads varsity football to dominating 30-7 win over West Ottawa

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Seniors Jimmy Scholler and Jackson Clay, along with junior Jonah Spates, led a new-look FHC offense to a dominating performance in the air. After failing to string much together in the passing game in Week 1 against Jenison, success against West Ottawa was very encouraging to see ahead of a tougher opponent next week in Grandville.

“It was very encouraging to get the passing game going and getting a lot of people involved,” Jimmy said. “It’s so important to have that element of the game because it makes the defense start to guess, which opens up holes and chances to score downfield.”

Although the passing game did improve, the initial success from the Ranger offense came on the ground. After the Rangers received the kickoff, Jackson kicked things off early with a 35-yard run, taking FHC deep into West Ottawa territory just 20 seconds into the game. Big plays were something that was lacking in FHC’s opening game, but already the offense was looking like they had turned things around.

The offense continued to slowly work its way toward the West Ottawa endzone. The 8-play, 60-yard opening drive was finally capped off by a 4-yard touchdown run from Jimmy, which was one of his two rushing touchdowns on the day. 

Overall, Jimmy rushed for 76 yards on 13 attempts, showing his ability to perform in both parts of the offense. Helping him out was stellar blocking from both the offensive line and even skill players as well, who Jimmy has been impressed with.

“Our line has been incredible this year,” Jimmy said. “The skill players are blocking hard on the perimeter, which just makes those holes for the runners even bigger.”

West Ottawa then received the ball, but the Panthers really couldn’t get anything going offensively. While there were a few 10+ yard plays for them throughout the game, any time West Ottawa looked like they were about to get some momentum going, the Rangers forced a punt or turnover on downs.

After the Ranger offense took back over, the running game for the Rangers picked up right where they left off. Jackson went for another long run, which set him up for a 38-yard touchdown run via a jet sweep with 5:24 remaining in the first quarter. New to him this year, Jackson has a different role in the offense. While he’s still one of the main targets in the air for the Rangers, the threat of Jackson’s speed and agility in the backfield has been something that FHC has taken advantage of, which was clearly displayed in his 95-yard rushing performance on Friday.

“It was a great adjustment,” Jackson said. “All the conditioning we did as a team leading up to the season is really starting to pay off, and we’re really punishing the opposing teams.”

Following Jackson’s touchdown, the Panthers started to advance the ball a bit more. After the Rangers stuffed the Panthers on 4th down on the FHC 32 yard line, the passing game for the Rangers started to get things going. Jackson jumped over a defender to catch the ball and put the Rangers in Panther territory with a minute remaining in the first quarter, but the offense didn’t move much afterward. Senior Will Gustafson hit a deep field goal from 37 yards out, and FHC now led 17-0.

West Ottawa really gained some momentum after the FHC field goal, and the offense started to march down the field. Just as the Panthers got into the red zone, Jackson picked off West Ottawa’s Jake Zimmer in the endzone, keeping a zero in the score column. 

Starting from their own 20-yard line, the Rangers strung together some solid runs to drive down the field. After Jimmy hurdled a defender for an 11-yard run, he ran for a 21-yard touchdown down the middle to make the score 24-0 in favor of the Rangers with five minutes left in the first half.

Another quick stop for the FHC defense resulted in another possession for the offense before the half. A 53-yard reception from Jonah via a rocket of a throw from Jimmy put the Rangers at a 30-0 advantage, all but clinching the victory before halftime even struck. 

In the second half, the tides didn’t change much, other than the fact that the Ranger offense started to slow down. As West Ottawa drove down on the first drive of the second half, junior Joey Wise intercepted the Panther quarterback, stopping the team in its tracks and giving the ball back to the FHC offense. The Rangers weren’t getting much going offensively throughout the second half, but the defense for FHC continued to generate stop after stop.

West Ottawa finally entered the score column with 9:38 remaining in the game when quarterback Jacob Zimmer threw a 31-yard touchdown to star receiver Blake Bosma. Other than that, there weren’t many threatening drives for either team throughout the second half of the game.

The game ended with a final score of 30-7, with the Rangers pulling off a much-needed non-conference victory in hopes of clinching a playoff berth and making a run this season. With a 2-0 record, an improved passing game, impressive performances on the ground, and what looks to be a very talented defense, FHC is feeling confident ahead of a matchup with one of the top-ranked football teams in West Michigan. 

“We need to have a great week in practice,” Jackson said. “They’re obviously a very talented team, so we need to stay focused throughout the entire week in order to prepare.”