Resurgent Rangers shave anxiety, then hair

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Kyle Lubbehusen joined Forest Park’s huddle before the start of last week’s soccer sectional championship. Lubbehusen sported a freshly shaved head while most of the Rangers also sported creative haircuts ranging from bowl cuts to racing stripes. The motley haircuts have accompanied a late-season push for Forest Park, which will square off with Sullivan in the regional semifinals Thursday at Gibson Southern.

By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer

With the hymn of an active razor hovering above his head, Kyle Lubbehusen remained nervously still.

As the blade made graceful contact with hair, he began seeing his locks descend helplessly to the ground below.

What am I getting myself into? Lubbehusen thought.

Twenty-four hours before the senior eventually scored the game-winning goal in Forest Park’s boys soccer sectional championship in Dubois, he found himself in a far scarier place.

It’s the Ranger barbershop. And nobody is safe.

A week removed from their thrilling 3-2 triumph over No. 8 Washington Catholic, the Rangers are still parading around their Bretzville pitch with the crazy cuts many of them received the night before that championship match.

As flow their uniquely savage hairstyles, so also flows the team’s tournament aspirations. Thursday at 6 p.m. EDT, Forest Park (8-8-2) squares off against Sullivan (10-8) in the Class 1A regional at Fort Branch in an attempt to capture the program’s first regional victory.

“Soccer’s a different sport. It’s a creative game,” Ranger coach Brent Sicard said. “You need creative kids to be on the field and do things for you. It’s not such a structured game. … And it shows in more ways than just on the field.”

As for the crazed coiffures, the idea spurred from last season’s team taking similar action. The only differences with this year’s experiment were the boundaries, or lack thereof.

“Just crazy,” Sam Russell said of hairdo ideas going in. “Just whatever you wanted.”

The clippings occurred after the last practice before the championship match, but players left forewarning to a minimum, informing parents and coaches simply that they “were getting haircuts,” Max Rickelman said.

“We heard a couple of them say, ‘We’re going to go shave our heads,’” Sicard said. “And we were like, ‘Whatever.’”

The cuts came at Lubbehusen’s house, and he became the first to sit in the chair. Adam Braunecker, a first-time barber, took the clippers.

“I kind of just took the blade off and started going to town,” said Braunecker, who gave his teammate a clean, no-hair buzz.

“I didn’t really want it this short,” Lubbehusen said. “But it came out and I liked it. So I just kept to it.”

Not that he had much choice at that point.

From there, the evening became a contest of imagination and artistry. Well, as much as teenage boys holding clippers are capable of.

Rickelman served as barber for Derek Hoffman’s masterpiece, a short buzz with an elegant ponytail waving in back. Surprisingly, Rickelman’s satisfaction with his work was replaced more so with critique.

“(The ponytail) was a little crooked,” he said.

Blake Altmann sported a “raccoon hat,” with trimmed sides and a raging mane behind. Sadly, he trimmed it following the sectional championship to “make it look less stupid.”

A cup was placed on Austin Berger’s head before teammates began operating, making a “little acorn,” as Russell named it. Ben Englert received some disorderly racing stripes on the sides of his head and brothers Sam and Alex Russell gave each other classic bowl cuts.

“We were going for something…different. Besides the shaved head,” Sam Russell said. “We were trying to find something different that no one really thought of, and we thought about bringing back the bowl cut, like in ‘Dumb and Dumber.’”

Aaron Schuler received what resembles a massive golfer’s divot plopped on top of his dome, and Rickelman opted for the clean shave like Lubbehusen, but trusted an outsider to take care of the procedure.

“I went to my aunt’s because I was scared and didn’t trust these guys with razors,” he said.

“And yet you were the one that cut half of (the team’s hair),” Sam Russell rebutted.

“I told them I was experienced,” Rickelman explained.

Then there was Cody Flamion, who received what became affectionately called the “coach’s style,” with hair sawed off the top, leaving the impression of a balding head in honor of Sicard.

“Yeah, real honored,” Sicard said. “They make me feel my age.”

Some players were excused from the cutting for legitimate reasons — Joel Weyer had a wedding, Brandon Luebbehusen cited homecoming — while others couldn’t conceive a valid rationale.

“If we win regional, I’ll cut it,” Dakota Begle said.

Behind the tomfoolery and relative absurdity the haircuts convey, there’s deeper meaning, Sicard believes.

For a group that tumbled into a funk during the regular season, losing six straight matches, and which even appeared uptight and nervous during wins, Sicard thought, the haircuts represented a release. A change in attitude developed once the Rangers realized that a conference title and further postseason success wasn’t out of the question. They started loosening up, having fun, and the results followed.

“Those moments, they were starting to see that,” Sicard said. “They were starting to realize, ‘We still have something to play for.’”

Thursday’s message will be clear for a program making its second-ever regional appearance: Make history for Forest Park.

“That’s all you can try and instill in them. The opportunity is there. Don’t back away from it,” Sicard said. “Relish the moment. You don’t want to back away from it. Once that opportunity is there, it may not be there again. … I don’t want those kids to think, ‘Oh, we’ve got next year.’ Now is the time. We’re in the position now and we may not be in the position again. We’ve got to seize that opportunity right now.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at jjasinski@dcherald.com.

 




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