Bumpy debut has Rangers refreshing to-do list

Herald Sports Writer

FERDNINAND — When describing the film that he and Gibson Southern first-year coach Nick Hart exchanged in the week preceding Friday night’s contest in Ferdinand, Forest Park coach Ross Fuhs applied the word “vanilla,” which oftentimes translates to garnering a bland idea for the other’s keys and tendencies without exposing the good stuff.

And from the tape, Fuhs stressed to his team the vitality of containing the Titans’ power combo, dual-threat quarterback Jordan Scheller and running back David Anguish, the fundamental pieces of Gibson Southern’s wide-open offense.

Blame it on the mental mistakes, the tackling, the lackluster work ethic in practice, but also give credit where it’s due, said Fuhs. These guys are the real deal. And by game’s end, everyone at Ranger Field knew it, as the visiting Titans paraded out with a 56-10 victory.

En route to amassing 493 yards of total offense, Scheller (127 passing yards, 105 rushing yards, three total touchdowns) and Anguish (119 total yards, three touchdowns) excelled.

As if the Gibson Southern weaponry didn’t suffice, the Rangers authored further self-infliction with eight penalties resulting in 60 yards. Where did the finger point? The practice field, said Fuhs.

“We just made it hard on ourselves,” he said. “All week, our big keys were containing (Scheller) and containing (Anguish). That’s all we talked about all week. (Defensively), if we were able to do that, we’d be in good shape. And obviously we didn’t. ... It’s all mental. We didn’t read our keys, we didn’t break down, we didn’t tackle, and until these guys start buying in to practicing hard, I told them it’s going to be like that. They’ve got to realize it’s the (Pocket Athletic Conference), they’re going to bring it every week. Until they buy in and practice harder and make sure they’re reading their keys, they’re definitely going to make it harder on themselves than it should be.”

The Rangers did, however, compile respectable offensive numbers. Backfield counterparts Travis Schnell and Josh Voegerl collectively accounted for 118 rushing yards while Trent Bayer slung the ball for 92 yards in his first varsity start. Yet with every glimmer of hope or sign of potential came a penalty, a sack (six total), an interception (three) or a fumble (one). A barrier toward progress.

“We would get one step forward and two steps back pretty much every time,” Voegerl said. “We’d get a nice 5-yard gain or 4-yard gain and then get either an interception, fumble or offsides, and you just can’t win games like that.”

Fuhs thought on nearly the exact wavelength.

“We had a lot of yards on offense, but it was like one step forward and two steps back every time,” he said. “All of our running backs ran well ... but we’d make big plays and then there would be a penalty. Big plays, fumble. Big plays, interception. ... We talked before the game, too. It’s the team that makes the fewest mistakes and less penalties and the least turnovers that’s going to win. And it was obviously them.”

With injured linemen Dylan Popplewell and Austin Egloff still absent, facing an rushing attack of Gibson Southern’s pedigree in the first week was inopportune, and that became evident in the first half. The Titans scored on their first four possessions — three runs and a pass — followed by a 30-yard interception touchdown with 7:39 left before halftime. The pick-six was the Titans’ second touchdown in under two minutes.

Going into the half, the Rangers trailed 42-3 — thanks to Ranger kicker Dakota Begle’s 34-yard field goal in the first quarter — and Fuhs tried refocusing his squad by figuratively wiping the slate clean entering the final 24 minutes.

And though it came midway through the final quarter with the Titans’ lead resting comfortably at 53 points, Forest Park got their drive ­— a 12-play, 73-yarder that consumed over 6 1/2 minutes of clock and featured consecutive Bayer passes for 19 and 11 yards. Schnell capped it with a 2-yard plunge for a touchdown, generating some promise going into next week’s game against Perry Central.

“That’s what we said at halftime. This game is 0-0,” Fuhs said. “And we’re going to come out and win the second half. And that was our goal at halftime. But yeah, that was a big confidence booster driving the ball down the field and scoring. But like I said, we were driving the ball down the field the whole game and it would be one thing or it would be another thing. But I think it was good. At least they were clapping and they were excited and cheering there at the end. I think that was big.”

Despite the loss, Hart doesn’t see Forest Park as down and out.

“They’re banged up right now,” Hart said. “And that’s always tough when you go into your first game of the season. I think they have a chance to be a good ballclub. We got up and got the momentum and it was just hard for them to get back. And I think they’re a lot better than what they showed tonight and Coach Fuhs will continue to get this team better because I know he’s a really good football coach.

“(He’s) going to do great things here.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at jjasinski@dcherald.com.

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