The FHC defensive front seven along with the dynamic offensive duo of senior Jimmy Scholler and junior Jonah Spates exploded for a commanding performance over the Northview Wildcats, a team the Rangers fell to 33-0 last year. The defensive line and supporting cast for the Rangers—comprised of juniors Mason Wiltz, Sawyer Bosch, Carson Deines, Deacon Lobdell, Jason Downey, along with seniors Brandon Weiskopf and Wyatt Engler—were assigned the task of shutting down star Northview running back Jakaurie Kirland, and they performed that duty to near perfection.
“We challenged the kids to get 11 guys to the ball the whole time. You can’t have a guy take a play off against Jakari; he’s a really, really good football player,” head coach Tim Rogers said. “The mantra this week was to make sure we had 11 guys to the ball and be all boxed in, and we didn’t give him any wiggle room. He’ll take a crack and go the distance on you if you’re not careful.”
While the defense came out all guns blazing from the start, the offense took some time to wake up. Both teams punted the first couple of possessions, but once the Rangers got the ball back for the second time, Jimmy started to lead the charge.
After the stagnant offense early on, Jonah finally broke the ice, breaking out for a 37 yard reception via Jimmy, taking the Rangers all the way down to the 9-yard line. Jimmy then took things into his own hands, driving to the endzone for six.
Just over a minute later, the Wildcat offense was stopped once again. A tackle for loss from Carson Deines resulted in a 4th and long deep in Northview territory, and the Wildcats were punting again.
On the next drive, the Ranger running game got itself going just as the passing game had the drive before. Multiple runs from Jimmy put the FHC offense deep in the Wildcat half, and the drive was capped off with another short run from Jimmy. This gave the Rangers a 14-0 advantage just eight minutes into the contest behind successful performances on both sides of the ball.
After yet another defensive stop for FHC, the offense picked up some major yardage through the air. An incredible reception from Jonah started off as a 15-yard gain, but after making six defenders miss, he broke out of the pile for a 47-yard reception. Despite Jimmy being the one who finished off the drive with yet another rushing touchdown, the other standout performer on the offense was quite clearly Jonah with his six receptions for 121 yards on the day.
As soon as the Rangers went up by 21, the Northview offense realized things needed to get going. After a couple of long gains, a deep ball was thrown but was intercepted by senior Hayden Sarjeant, who returned the ball for a 26-yard gain all the way to the Northview 22-yard line. At this point, the FHC offense hit a bit of a standstill, as a first down was not gained and the 41-yard field goal from senior Will Gustafson was not converted.
Despite the missed field goal, the Rangers returned to the locker room at the half with a 21-0 advantage, quite the opposite of the matchup between these two teams last year. For the returners who had to experience that loss last year, getting off to a quick lead was very important.
“It was obviously huge,” said Jonah on the early lead. “Coach Rogers told us to set the tone, and the quick stop and score afterward did exactly that.”
After a quick stop on defense, the Wildcat offense was very slow to wake up once again the next possession, much in part due to the swarming Ranger defense. The starting outside linebacker duo of Deacon and Jason are recent additions to the starting lineup due to some injuries, but there was no slippage in quality of play from the previous the players that were being filled in for. They let very little activity past them, and another turnover was created because of them. Just over two minutes into the second half, Deacon intercepted the Wildcat quarterback’s pass through the middle, giving the Rangers the ball at the Northview 25-yard line.
Quickly after the turnover, success in the running game continued for FHC. Sawyer took the handoff from the 15-yard line, storming through the Northview defense for the touchdown and a 28-0 lead with 8:45 left in the third quarter. For Coach Rogers and co. the key to success on the ground was the return of a key lineman and captain: senior Payton Corcoran.
“[The key to the running success] was easily Payton Corcoran coming back from injury,” Rogers said. “He makes a lot of calls up front, he’s a senior, he exudes a lot of confidence, and I think the guys feel very confident playing around him.”
Following the touchdown from Sawyer, the FHC offense took its foot off the gas a bit, rotating players and not forcing points with such a big lead, and no scores occurred from either team after this point. Although, the Wildcats were still attempting to find the endzone for the first time all day. The Ranger defense remained stingy, only allowing 81 total yards, with just 33 through the air and 48 on the ground. While the shutdown of the Northview offense was impressive—especially in the electric Wildcat running game—what stood out most for coach Rogers was the fundamentals and what he and his staff preach every day.
“We preach taking care of the ball, and we didn’t have a turnover today. We preach taking the ball away, and we had three takeaways. We also only had one penalty, and we talk about discipline all the time,” Rogers said. “That’s our formula for success, and it was pretty well executed today.”
With this win, the Rangers move to a record of 4-1 (2-0) with a matchup against Cedar Springs on the horizon. The Red Hawks come in with an identical record, with their only loss coming against Caledonia in week 2. These two teams are looking like the favorites to hoist the conference title, so this game will likely be the most influential matchup left on the Rangers’ schedule.