Foot Notes: Rangers flip, push, tug to 'strongman' acclaim

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Members of the Forest Park line, who gathered around Lance Buechler at a preseason practice, are awaiting their prize from coach Ross Fuhs after winning the Titan Challenge over the summer at Gibson Southern. The four-man Ranger group beat out 11 other teams in a competition where players flipped giant tires, competed in a tug-of-war and lugged 50-pound blocks.


By JOHN PATISHNOCK
and JOE JASINSKI

Herald Sports Writers

The summer to-do list for the Forest Park linemen may not have been what they were expecting. Sure, they assumed they’d have to block, tackle and create as much space as possible for their offensive playmakers, but flip tires? Compete in tug-of-war battles?

Bieker

Welcome to the Ross Fuhs era.

Earlier this summer, Forest Park traveled to Gibson Southern High School and won the first Titan Challenge, an amalgamation of events designed to test strength and flexibility. Twelve teams competed, including the Rangers’ JV squad. The challenges included an obstacle course, tire flip, tug-of-war competition, a sled push and a fireman’s carry, where players lug 50-pound blocks.

Sounds like some bizarre form of punishment. That is, unless you’re wired like Fuhs.

“It was awesome, I think it was a great start to the summer and a great start to what we’re trying to build here,” the first-year Forest Park coach said. “We try to have competition in everything we do.”

T.J. Bieker, Austin Kempf, Ethan Knust and Dylan Popplewell comprised the winning Ranger quartet, with dinner at Buffalo Wings and Rings, courtesy of Fuhs, still awaiting as their prize. There isn’t a date set for next year’s challenge, but Gibson Southern coach Nick Hart plans on continuing the event.

Kempf

Fuhs competed in strongman challenges while in school at Southridge but never traveled for such an event. Likewise, the Rangers stuck to internal competitions and challenges in prior years, but Fuhs raved about the opportunity the Titan Challenge afforded his guys in the lead-up to the season.

“I think it was a good team-building deal just for the fact they had to cheer on each other and they were all in it together,” Fuhs said. “That’s our thing. We want everybody to be in it together and be positive, so I think that was a perfect experience.”

Slinging it around
A 13-yard touchdown toss. A 19-yard out. An 8-yard completion on fourth-and-4.
Effective plays, but not necessarily ones that conjure memories of a performance not seen in over four years.

Heck, even the screen pass from Southridge quarterback Jake Hildebranski to Brad Haase that resulted in a six-yard loss helped make a bit of Raider history in Friday night’s win against Forest Park.

For the first time since trouncing Sullivan 57-7 in the 2008 season opener, Southridge featured six receivers who caught at least one pass Friday.

Paul Reller hauled in the 19-yarder, while Cody Thompson grabbed the touchdown and Daniel Perez converted on fourth down. Add a 14-yard reception from Connor Craig and a 9-yard gain from Alex Householder to Haase’s catch, and voila — the Raiders were just as likely to move the ball through the air than the ground.

Perez finished with two grabs as Hildebranski completed 7-of-11 passes for 60 yards.
Southridge didn’t need the aerial aspect as it tamed its county rival, but Raider coach Kelly Murphy talked of the importance of ensuring guys are ready within the team’s no-huddle offense.

“I though we had real good rhythm from that third series on,” Murphy said. “We worked on some passing game there toward the end, just because we needed to and I thought Jacob threw the ball well. I thought we blocked well, so there’s a lot of good points.”

No give, only take
For Jasper’s first three opponents, the first quarter has been a no-scoring zone. The Wildcats are yet to surrender a point in the first period, and the most headway an opposing offense has gained was to Jasper’s 43-yard line.

The Wildcat defense has afforded offenses a combined 56 yards through 36 first-quarter minutes, including just nine to Boonville. Southridge had the most success, munching 25 yards.

The offenses are not only spinning in place but they’re losing the ball. Jasper’s Ryan Betz and Courtland Betz have each registered first-quarter interceptions and Cole Kreilin forced a fumble on special teams against Boonville.




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