Big shoes no problem for BegleSeptember 25, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
ROCKPORT — Having to fill the shoes of your school’s all-time leading rusher can seem like a daunting task to some, but Jake Begle has been up to it.
The Forest Park senior took over the fullback slot from the graduated Drew Day this year.
Day rushed for a career-best 1,853 yards with the Rangers (4-2, 1-1), but Begle has enjoyed the same kind of success his predecessor has in the second year of Forest Park’s Wing-T offense. He entered Friday’s game at South Spencer with 502 rushing yards and eight touchdowns — seven rushing and one receiving.
Begle only added on Friday night, now standing at 630 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns.
The Rangers fed him, and he ate. Begle carried the ball 19 times for 128 yards on Friday night, with a touchdown and two-point conversion run to help Forest Park get its first-ever road win against Pocket Athletic Conference Small School Division rival South Spencer, 42-7.
That was his third 100-yard game this season, and reached the achievement the second week in a row on Friday.
His two-point run came at the 10:37 point of the second quarter after fellow senior Daniel Eckert had a six-yard touchdown run.
“I felt like everyone was expecting me to do the same or do better than (Day) did, just trying to put up the same numbers,” Begle said. “And he was one of my good friends, too, and were always helping each other, trying to push each other more. I feel like I took his shoes pretty well and proved myself.”
His five-yard run immediately preceded a 47-yard touchdown reception by senior Trey Toby, extending Forest Park’s lead to 14-7 with 3:29 to play in the first half. Forest Park coach Ross Fuhs thought Begle’s run opened up the play action pass to Toby, and Begle helped further give his team some breathing room.
Toby caught a pass for 15 yards on a fourth down conversion with nine yards to go, and Begle ran it in two yards for his eighth rushing score of the season with 48 seconds left. Forest Park a 21-7 lead into the locker room at half.
“Jake is just one of those guys that you’re always going to get the second, third, fourth effort from Jake,” Fuhs said after the win. “Our line made some really nice holes for him, but when he gets to that second level, he just keeps those feet driving and moving. He’s just a strong kid, and he’s hard to bring down with one guy, and his just tenacity when he runs the ball. His goal is to score every time, and he sure tries.”
Begle’s performance helped the game go to a running clock with the final 8:10 of the game, following a touchdown run by junior Austin Hoppenjans that made it 42-7.
Fuhs credited Begle for the work he did in the weight room during the offseason — putting on muscle from November 2019 until March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic shut things down. He focused on heavy lifting, cardio and burpees to gain that muscle.
Begle got acclimated to his new role during the summer, crediting the work he put in to get faster and more powerful.
Fuhs thinks Begle’s success has been a testament to both him and the system they use. Forest Park switched from the I-Formation offense to the Wing-T last year, and felt Begle would be good in the latter, just like Day was.
“I think as far as running-wise, I think their styles are kind of similar,” Fuhs said. “They’re both more guys that are going to go run up the middle, not as much side-to-side kind of stuff, and that’s what we want in our offense. Our wings got to be able to get out in space, go side-to-side, but our fullback’s got to be able to just run straight ahead and get some tough yardage, and I feel like with Jake, that is exactly what he can do.”
“I like it because it gives more misdirection and then it opens up more holes and stuff like that,” Begle later added.
Opposing defenses are keying in on him, but except for Tell City on Sept. 4, they haven’t been able to stop him. That was the only game he hasn’t scored a touchdown. When Forest Park runs its other backs to the outside, the opposition can move to the outside, setting Begle up for the kill. He notched five touchdowns on 213 yards rushing Aug. 28 at Perry Central.
That’s not the only way he can make opposing defenses pay, however. Forest Park has opened up its passing game more, as evidenced by Toby’s touchdown Friday and also Begle’s 54-yard receiving touchdown, which was all Forest Park needed in its 13-0 win Sept. 11 at Tecumseh.
“(Junior) Cooper Uebelhor, he’s a great quarterback,” he said. “He can throw the ball and I just trust in him that he can make it to me, and I’m hoping my linemen and all my other receivers and wings can block for me so I can get the touchdown.”
Begle is scheduled to have at least four more high school football games — three in the regular season and the sectional opener. He’s hoping to eclipse 1,000 rushing yards this year, which he said can be done be if he helps his teammates and they help him. Begle will hope to have another big night Oct. 2 at home against North Posey.
He’s relishing playing that fullback spot this year, even though it’s his only year doing so. Fuhs think it’s tough to have only one season of Begle in that spot. He joked that the Rangers should be able to redshirt him for next year with the virus occurring, but said Begle is living up to the expectations of him having the year the team thought he could have.
Regardless of what happens beyond this year, the bar is raised for the Forest Park fullback slot, given the production Day had last year, and the production Begle is generating this year.
“I think that’s definitely a spot where you say, ‘Hey, look what production we’ve had the last two years from these guys — those guys are team captains, they’re team leaders,’ ” Fuhs said.
“They’re guys that are going to work their tails off in the weight room, they’re going to work their tails off with conditioning.’ So, those guys have definitely set the bar high for that spot.
“Whoever takes that spot is going to have a lot of responsibility, they’re going to have a lot of leadership and I think the team’s going to look up to him,” he continued.
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