After early Ranger edge, familiar refrain invades

By JOSEPH FANELLI
Herald Sports Writer

FERDINAND — One of the old adages in football stresses winning the stages of the game. And for 11⁄2 quarters on Friday night in Ferdinand, Forest Park won the first level against Pocket Athletic Conference foe South Spencer, playing like the team coach Ross Fuhs has repeatedly said the Rangers can be.

The high point came on a 14-yard touchdown rumble from Alec Hassfurther just one play after the Rangers caused Rebel running back Jake Burden to fumble in their own territory. The score, Hassfurther’s first rushing touchdown of the season, put the Rangers up by three points with eight minutes left in the second quarter. The team seemed focused, the sideline was buzzing and the Rangers gripped all the momentum.

The problem with winning stages though, is you still have to win the game.

South Spencer scored the next 37 points as the Rangers fell 44-10 in another loss that displayed flashes of aptitude followed by stretches of mistakes and miscues.

Hassfurther


“It seems like the same story, the same song every week,” Fuhs said. “We feel like we can play with teams if we do all the little things right. If there’s 100 percent concentration; 100 percent focus. We can play with guys, but the problem is we don’t do that for four quarters and you see what happens.”

It was another tough loss for the Rangers (1-6, 0-5) who witnessed a 10-7 second-quarter lead — only their second advantage after one quarter all season — vanish in a little more than two minutes after Burden rattled off 41 of his 115 yards for a touchdown. The Rebels poured on 30 points in the second period, including two TDs in the final 1:17, that sunk the Rangers in a 30-10 hole at the half.

The second quarter has been a bit of a problem for Rangers this season. In seven games, Forest Park has given up 246 points, and 105 of those have come in the second quarter. That’s compared to the 28 points the Rangers have scored in the quarter.

“I think we always do good in the first quarter,” Hassfurther said. “We fight, for the most part. And then, in the second quarter, that’s when people get tired and take plays off, and that’s when you really got to step it up.”

But early on, a two-headed rushing attack from Hassfurther and Josh Voegerl found success gouging South Spencer on the ground, bullying their way through multiple defenders and fighting for yards. After Forest Park forced a three-and-out on the Rebels’ first possession, the Rangers marched 63 yards down the field, setting up Dakota Begle’s 27-yard field goal. The ball went to Hassfurther or Voegerl on eight of the 11 plays.

“I think when we’re both back there, being seniors, we can help predict what’s going to happen,” Hassfurther said. “Tell (the line), ”˜Hey, linebackers outside, make sure you hit him.’ And we block for each other. We want to help each other get more yards. You get just as much pride out of blocking for a big run as you do running for a big run.”

Hassfurther, who has been used mostly as a receiver this season, carried the ball 12 times for 54 yards and the Rangers’ only touchdown. Before Friday, Hassfurther had only four carries all season. Voegerl led the team with 63 yards on 12 carries. Neither back had more than five carries in the second half and zero in the fourth quarter as the game became increasingly out of hand.

The passing game was a different story, though. With the Rangers stationed on their own 16-yard line in the third quarter, Isaac Rowan intercepted a Trent Bayer pass and proceeded to wind down the field for a 99-yard touchdown return, effectively putting the game out of reach. Bayer, who replaced injured Ben Wendholt who's out with a broken ankle, finished with just 9 yards on two completions — both to Reece Heilers — and two interceptions.

“We’ve just got to be smart with the football,” Fuhs said. “We can’t turn the ball over. If something is not there, we’ve got to be smart and throw the ball away. Don’t force things; live to play another down. It’s something we work on every single day.”

The passing defense was not much better. Malin Webb threw for 114 yards on seven completions, including a 40-yard bomb to Tyler Schneider.

“Some of the receivers we play are just more athletic than us. Plain and simple,” Fuhs said. “And part of it is we’re just not getting to the places we need to be. We get caught looking in the backfield instead of reading our keys ... and you just get burned.”

Hassfurther, who has provided the Rangers with some offensive spark since returning from an early-season suspension, said he has seen improvements — and turning the team’s direction around is as much about playing with the lead as playing from behind.

“It’s the mental state in the game,” he said. “If we’re up, we feel content so we don’t keep going and stacking it on. And if we’re down, we get down a little bit. I think we need to keep a steady tempo no matter what’s going on. Full force all the way.”

Fuhs for one, is not giving up on his team just yet. With two games left in the regular season, there’s still hope for improvement.

“I have a positive attitude because I have faith in these kids. I really, really do,” Fuhs said. “And, like I always tell them, if we come out and play four quarters like we’re capable of, we’re going to win some games. We’ve got games left and if we come and play four quarters, we think we can compete with teams.”

Contact Joseph Fanelli at jfanelli@dcherald.com




More on DuboisCountyHerald.com