Aggression equates to first Ranger win

By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer

MARENGO — Dozens of Forest Park fans mingled outside the Rangers’ locker room after Friday night’s 47-0 stomping of Crawford County while threats of thunderstorms looming to the west of Marengo littered radio airwaves.

But for them, talk of anything other than the first win of the Fuhs era, and the first shutout in Forest Park history, became an afterthought. At least momentarily, excitement reigned.

And how appropriate the scene, considering Ranger coach Ross Fuhs’ message before the game.

“I told them, ‘It’s Friday night,’” he said. “These guys have to be excited about playing. During the week you’ve got to be excited but Friday nights ... it doesn’t get any better. And that’s not something you can coach. That’s got to be something inside of you. We can preach and preach and preach about it, but they’ve just got to be excited. And I want them to be excited.”

It didn’t take long to recognize the impact of his words.

In fact, it was 15 seconds, as Noah Braunecker scampered for a 72-yard score on the opening kickoff.

“(The kick return) was awesome,” Fuhs said. “It’s what we talked about. We knew on film their good players were on the other side of the ball, so we set up a little return to the left and it worked out. … It’s always good to get enthusiasm and confidence right off the bat.”

It was the first of two special-teams touchdowns in a contest that was all Forest Park, all the time.

The Ranger offense displayed a mix of run and pass en route to amassing 322 yards of total offense, with three touchdowns coming on the ground and a pair through the air.

Josh Voegerl solified the running attack with 84 yards and two scores on 12 carries, Lance Buechler snatched a pair of Trent Bayer tosses, including a 7-yard grab in the end zone, and Alec Hassfurther helped bridge the two paths, cementing 86 total yards with a 15-yard touchdown reception and 30-yard scoring gallop.

Voegerl and Buechler remain consistent threats, but with Hassfurther, the potential — and danger for defenses — grows with each week.

Hassfurther

It’s just a matter of the 6-foot-4, 250-pound hoss realizing that himself, Fuhs said.

“(Hassfurther) is a big presence, obviously,” Fuhs said. “As soon as he has full confidence in himself, he can be a beast. There’s no doubt. I’ve always told him I’d give him a million dollars for his body in high school. It’s just a matter of confidence with him. If he knows what he’s doing, and he can go 100 percent, he’s going to be tough to stop.”

Thankfully for Fuhs and Co., the junior is becoming aware.

“I didn’t know what I was capable of at the beginning of the year,” Hassfurther said. “You start to realize you can do some damage.”

Defensively, the Rangers swarmed. While the Ranger line — still without the injured Austin Egloff and Dylan Popplewell — sacked shifty quarterback Seth Fell just once, the secondary delivered the hurt, as defensive backs Austin Kempf, Victor Weyer and Bryce Bettag each bashed Wolfpack receivers who appeared to have clean catches.

Kempf

Kempf’s punishing blows and second-quarter interception illustrated a larger picture, however. He’s doing things the way they should be done, Fuhs said.

“Austin, the last couple games, has become our guy on defense,” Fuhs said. “He was flowing around in the Perry Central game, making a couple big tackles to save plays. Southridge, he made a couple big tackles. And it’s just come down to him doing the little things right. Reading his keys and reacting. That’s what we’ve been trying to tell these guys. You’ve got to play downhill. We’ve got to be the aggressor.”

Giving his assessment of the defense, Kempf’s words pack a similarly succinct punch.

“It’s finally clicking,” he said.

As was the Ranger offense for the better part of the contest.

Forest Park’s first offensive touchdown came on the connection to Buechler, which capped a brisk four-play, 42-yard drive. A 27-yard Hassfurther misdirection scoot — the same play, this time to the left, that afforded him his second touchdown in the second quarter — highlighted the sequence.

The second frame emphasized the Ranger running brigade, as Voegerl barreled eight times in the quarter, scoring twice, and Hassfurther added his second TD.

The second half, much of which was accelerated with a running clock, orchestrated a similar tone. Bayer (6-for-10, 98 yards) floated a delicate 15-yard pass to Hassfurther in the far left side of the end zone for the Rangers’ final offensive score with just over seven minutes to go in the third quarter.

After the Ranger defense forced a three-and-out, Buechler scored for a second time, swerving to the outside after receiving a punt from just inside the 50-yard line.

Soon after, the attention focused to the satisfaction of win No. 1. As the fans waited outside, players grooved to beats in the locker room, and a few even belted out some lyrics.

By Kempf’s ears, Ethan Knust’s voice rang supreme.

As for a recording career, Kempf has his doubts.

“I don’t think it would be appropriate,” he joked.

Monday will be the Rangers’ first practice following a win. Any changes? Don’t count on it, Fuhs said.

“It’s back to the same Monday,” he said. “We’re going to watch film and we’re going to give them a good workout. It feels good to get that win. That’s what these guys needed. They needed a little boost of confidence to kind of get them going. And like I said, we’ve got to come out hard and win this game, and let’s get rolling here a little bit. I feel like we’ve got some talent. We’ve just got to keep doing the little things right and keep building on this.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at jjasinski@dcherald.com.




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