Forest Park punishes South Spencer all Day

Forest Park's Drew Day takes off on a 45-yard run to seal the win, while Jake Begle eyes South Spencer defenders during Friday's football game in Ferdinand. Forest Park won 14-7. Marlena Sloss/The Herald


FERDINAND — While it might have seemed like it to South Spencer defenders that every handoff Friday night went to the same running back, Forest Park didn’t rely solely on the rushing of Drew Day all day.

But the Rangers looked to the senior running back most of the night, and needed every yard he gobbled up to emerge with a 14-7 win over their Pocket Athletic Conference foe.

And while Forest Park was looking to its offensive leader, Day was looking to his teammates that clear the way for him.

“The O-Line, I really just give them all the credit. They allowed me to do what I do best. Without my O-Line, I wouldn’t be able to pull it together,” Day said after he punished the Rebels for a record 222 yards on 33 carries, one shy of the record number of carries he had earlier in the year against Perry Central.

While most of his carries went for five yards or less, he erupted for two big runs as bookends to the second half — a 29-yard gallop on his first carry of the half that set up the Rangers’ second touchdown, then a 45-yard streak on his final carry of the game that broke the Rebels’ back and sealed the win.

“He was our workhorse, for sure,” coach Ross Fuhs said of his star back.

And the coach points to Day’s work ethic as the reason for his success. “We definitely had better attendance in the weight room this year, and a guy like Drew Day, for example, he lived in there, and the results show. Guys who are in there all the time, the numbers speak for themselves. If he’s not in there all the time, he might not be able to grind it out like it did at the end.”

While Day is Forest Park’s primary weapon, there’s a stable of running backs that the Rangers rely on to get the job done.

“We felt like the way they were playing their defense, we could run those little quick hitters up the middle, and we kept going back and back and back to it, and our line did a nice job of opening up holes. And then Drew did a good job, even with second and third and fourth efforts. He keeps those feet grinding, stays low to the ground and did a nice job,” Fuhs said.

“Jake Begle came in, he’s one of our good backs. He was really dinged up, didn’t know if he’d even play at all tonight. He gave us some nice yards, him and Cole Mohr both, just to kinda give Drew a break.

“We just felt like keeping it on the ground was best,” Fuhs said. “We were popping off four or five yards at a time, and then hit some big ones. We were having success with it, so we didn’t really want to go away from it.”

While the Rangers relied on their ground game — save a 48-yard bomb from quarterback Cooper Uebelhor to Jared Schipp for the game’s first touchdown on Forest Park’s first possession — South Spencer found success through the air. Junior passing sensation Kobe Bartlett connected on 12 passes for 264 yards, with half of those going for 20 yards or more, including aerials of 30, 31, 42 and 65 yards.

“He’s a really good player, and our game plan going in was to heat him up,” Fuhs said of Bartlett. “If he has a chance to just stand there and throw it, he’s dangerous. He’s got receivers that catch it — they made some really nice catches tonight. I think our defensive guys were right there, and he put it right in there.”

But while Bartlett was having plenty of success with his arm, the Forest Park defense was have plenty of success of its own, including seven quarterback sacks, led by Gavin Knust.

“We did a nice job on him, for the most part,” Fuhs said of his defense. “Our plan going in was to try to put pressure on [Bartlett] and make him throw it sooner than he wanted to.

“Holding those guys to seven points is a nice effort by us, for sure. We put in a couple of different blitz packages this week that we really hadn’t shown, and I think a couple of those really worked well,” Fuhs said.

It looked as if the game was going to be rather lopsided when the Rangers (4-3 overall and 2-3 in PAC play) took the opening kickoff and marched the length of the field, capping the eight-play drive with Uebelhor’s rainbow to Schipp with 7:28 showing. Abby Eckert tacked on the extra point, and Forest Park had a lead it would not relinquish.

The Rebels went three and out, then the Rangers held the ball for 16 plays, a possession that covered 48 yards and extended into the second quarter.

South Spencer (1-6, 1-5) mounted an 11-play drive as the half wound down, and threatened to tie the game going into intermission. But a jump ball at the 7 yard line was snared by Schipp to end the opportunity.

After the Rebels’ first possession of the second half ended in a punt that Daniel Eckert returned 36 yards to put the Rangers in scoring position, three carries by Day covered the 39 yards to the endzone for the touchdown. Abby Eckert’s PAT gave Forest Park all the points it would need for the win.

Forest Park's Jared Schipp prevents South Spencer's Devon Hughes from catching the ball in the endzone for a game-tying touchdown during Friday's football game in Ferdinand. Forest Park defeated South Spencer 14-7. Marlena Sloss/The Herald

Midway through the final period, South Spencer had a nine-play drive — highlighted by a 65-yard bomb by Bartlett — for its only points of the night with 7:47 to go.

The Rebels came within a whisker of tying the score with less than three minutes left, but Schipp knocked away a fourth-down, pinpoint pass to the endzone.

Forest Park methodically controlled the ball to run out the clock, but it was Day’s 45-yarder that finished the Rebels.

The Rangers host Class 3A No. 3-ranked Heritage Hills on Friday. The Patriots are coming off a 42-7 blasting of former No. 7-ranked Southridge.

“Everybody knows how good Heritage Hills is. They’re as good as advertised,” Fuhs said. “This game gives us a little confidence going in, and I know our guys will come and play. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, we’re gonna come and play our tails off, and whatever happens happens.”


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