Dominant defensive performance propels varsity football to 24-6 victory over FHN in Pre-District round

Matthew Mahoney

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On Friday night, the key to taking down the Huskies was containing their elusive quarterback in Trinidad Chambliss. While FHN has other playmakers on their roster, Chambliss makes the team tick, and if the Rangers shut him down, FHC was going to come out with a victory handily. The Ranger defense did exactly that, holding the Huskies to just 182 yards through the air, 49 on the ground, and just one touchdown.

“We just needed to contain Trinidad and not allow him to scramble,” senior linebacker Carson Deines said. “We made sure we always had 11 hats to the ball to force him out of play.”

Right away, the FHC defense asserted its dominance. Forcing the Huskies into a quick three and out, junior quarterback Hunter Robinson led the charge for the offense to make an early statement. On 3rd and 2 from the FHC 43, junior Jacob Bonnett set in motion from the slot into the backfield, and Hunter faked the handoff and took it himself through a sea of holes created by the dominating offensive line. After going pretty unscathed through the line of scrimmage, Hunter saw nothing but green grass as he ran it in for the 57-yard score. Just two and a half minutes into the contest, the Rangers had already produced a quick stop and touchdown.

On FHN’s first play of the next possession, things only got better for the Rangers. Chambliss gave the handoff to his running back, but with what appeared to be a miscommunication, the Rangers picked up the fumble deep in FHN territory. With a couple of missed passes and some short gains on runs, the Rangers were unable to find the endzone. Junior Luke Gustafson—who has been consistent all season—stepped up to make something out of the possession, knocking in the 32-yard field goal for an early 10-0 lead.

In a lengthy offensive possession for the Huskies, the FHN offense approached midfield with 3:26 in the first quarter. Chambliss found a receiver on a screen, and as senior Jason Downey wrapped the receiver up, the ball came loose. Carson was in the right place at the right time as he was in pursuit, diving on the football and securing the turnover. 

“[The fumble] was huge,” Carson said. “It was definitely a momentum swing in our direction.”

Following punts from both teams, the Rangers took over on offense once again deep inside their own territory. Hunter and senior Sawyer Bosch rattled off a pair of lengthy runs to enter the FHN half, and for one of the few times all game, Hunter found the hands of Jason for a one-handed grab and a 15-yard gain. Then, on 2nd and goal from the 2-yard line, Sawyer found the back of the endzone with plenty of space to roam free on the way in. 

Heading into the final five minutes of the half with a 17-0 deficit, the Huskies needed some momentum before the half to have any chance at turning around the game later on. Chambliss went back to the passing game to get a score, and he found success. He rattled off two consecutive passes for first downs, and on a key 2nd and 10, found the hands of Ethan Morello down the middle for another first down. With 1:30 remaining in the half and the Huskies located just inside the FHC 30-yard line, Chambliss dropped back under shotgun, and from the left hash, calmly found a wide-open receiver in the corner of the endzone for the score. With a missed PAT, the Rangers still held a 17-6 lead at the half.

For the most part, the first possession of the second half was the last of any substantial action in the game. On 2nd and 8 just inside the half, junior Nathan Sarjeant ran in motion through the backfield—very similarly to how Jacob did it on Hunter’s touchdown in the first quarter—and Hunter faked the handoff, finding a gaping hole down the middle, making a few Husky defenders miss, stiff-arming another FHN player, and running out of bounds at the 9-yard line for a 37-yard run. 

“Our receivers have played amazing so far this year, and they’re the reason our stretch and read plays work so well,” Hunter said. “It makes it very difficult for our defense to defend.”

Just the next play, Hunter took the snap and ran directly through the middle, and assisted by the dominant blocking of the offensive line, added another six points after running in untouched. Hunter has torn apart defenses lately, and against FHN it was no different, as he went on to rush for 205 yards and two touchdowns on 23 attempts.

“Running the ball has definitely been our strength lately,” Hunter said. “That being said, our team is confident in our ability to move the ball whether it’s through the air or on the ground.”

Not only did Hunter have plenty of meaningful carries on the ground, but so did other running options for the Rangers. Jacob racked up quite a few yards as well, rushing for 83 yards on 10 attempts, including a 27-yard run. Sawyer saw his confidence inflate since his return from injury earlier in the season, scoring a touchdown while also tallying 34 yards. 

For the remainder of the game, despite some lengthy drives, neither team added any more points. The Rangers closed out the game with some more stops, conservative play-calling, and a comfortable win. With the final score of 24-6, FHC advances to the District semifinals, facing Mona Shores in the next round. The Rangers have faced off against the Sailors multiple times in the postseason in recent years, with the Rangers taking the 2017 contest and the Sailors winning the very next year. The Sailors are coming off a State Championship last year and are arguably one of the best teams in the state. If the Rangers want to advance, they will need to perform at their best and limit mistakes.

“The most important thing is to eliminate turnovers and penalties,” Hunter said. “Mona is a very tough opponent, but this team is capable of beating them if we play at our highest level.”