Lessons in prosperity, humility mix for Rangers

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Bryce Bettag, left, Josh Voegerl and the rest of Forest Park’s team have experienced the gamut of football emotions over the past few weeks. After the season’s high point in knocking off Heritage Hills, the Rangers staggered to a 40-point defeat last week against Tell City. This week brings a mighty challenge, as the Rangers will square off with top-ranked Evansville Mater Dei in a 7:30 p.m. EDT Class 2A sectional matchup Friday at Enlow Field. 

By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer
Within a span of seven days, Ross Fuhs traversed the complete spectrum.

One Friday, he’s overrun by elation after his squad knocked off a perennial power the Rangers had never conquered in their brief history. The next week, a self-imposed road block that left the second-year coach’s group stumbling into state tournament play to face the state’s best. Literally.

The ups. The downs. The almosts. The finallys. In Fuhs’ first two seasons at the helm in Ferdinand, and for his group of 11 seniors, Forest Park (2-7) has endured more than its fair share of setbacks.

Nonetheless, fresh off a 40-point loss to Tell City last Friday and one day away from a daunting date at 7:30 p.m. EDT Friday with No. 1 Evansville Mater Dei (9-0) at Enlow Field in the first round of the Class 2A sectional, the Rangers’ spirit has remained buoyed by an optimism that rarely wavers.

As the front of the Forest Park program guide spells out: “If you don’t believe, you don’t belong.”
With two victories this season and three in the past two years combined, committing to the concept is tough, Fuhs admitted.

“A lot of people I talk to, they ask, ”˜How are you doing?’ and ”˜You always seem so positive, how do you do it?’ It’s just, if you lose, next week you have another game. Another chance to win,” Fuhs said.

“You’ve got to stay positive. As soon as you give up on these guys, they’re going to give up on themselves. And that’s something I’ll always do: I’ll always have faith in them.”

With the senior class, the notion has held true. Sure, “there have been some times when we’ve had to fire them up again and say, ”˜Hey, let’s go,’” Fuhs said, but all in all, it’s their work rate that’s brought the team along.

This week, Fuhs even left his senior group to organize Monday’s conditioning workout after the team broke down film and lifted weights.

The message: Take ownership of your team.

For the most part, Fuhs said, they have. And while victories and success are now measured on a slightly altered scale, the Rangers were able to collar the win that mattered the most to them.
And it’s still fresh on their minds: a double-overtime comeback thriller over Heritage Hills on Oct. 12.

“After going through last year and only having one win and then coming into this year and only winning against (Crawford County), the same team that we beat last year, we knew we had to do something special,” senior defensive back Corbin Hendershot said.

“(Assistant) coach (Jeff) Bettag was getting on us, ”˜Make history. Make history,’” senior Tristan Begle recalled. “So we worked extra hard that week and came out and made history.”

The win prompted multiple effects. Perhaps the focus wasn’t entirely there the following week, leading to the team’s 47-7 letdown against the Marksmen. As Fuhs pointed out, when wins come sparingly, putting one in the rear view and maintaining focus on what’s ahead can be difficult.

“That was kind of the low point (of the season),” Fuhs said of the Tell City defeat. “Back-to-back weeks where it was the tale of two stories.”

At the same time, the victory against the Patriots was vital. It had a reviving quality for the seniors and the team.

“If we did not (beat Heritage Hills), we wouldn’t have near as much motivation and we wouldn’t be having near as much fun as we’re having now,” said senior Bryce Bettag, who’s stationed in the secondary alongside Hendershot and Begle. “That game just heightened our spirits.”

The win’s remedial byproduct still seems to linger around Ranger Field. Before Wednesday’s practice, with a brisk wind and 45-degree chill, the Rangers engaged in tackling drills that have been the theme of the week.

“Finally, some football weather!” Fuhs proclaimed as he met with his team. The anticipated quips followed.

“There were a ton of Mondays they could have came in and just said, ”˜Heck with it.” Or during the week, they could have said, ”˜Heck with it. We lost again,’” Fuhs said. “But they haven’t been like that. They’ve come out in practices and they’ve listened and they’ve tried to do the right things, and that’s all you can ask for as a coach. It’s nice to get wins, but if they come out and work hard and listen and do the things you ask them to do, that makes it all worth it.”

But how do you deal with loss?

For Hendershot, preserving the sour taste from a Friday night drawback until Monday is essential, “so you just practice harder and harder just to get that feeling out of your stomach,” he said.

Once next season rolls around, the team can’t forget about this one, Bettag stressed
.
“I just hope they remember how bad it stinks to lose,” Bettag said. “And just to come in every single practice, no matter what the weather conditions are, whether it’s 40 degrees or 90 degrees, just come in, give it 100 percent effort, have a lot of motivation and a lot of intensity and they’ll have a successful team.”

As Fuhs emphasized, the job of guys like Bettag, Hendershot and Begle must be commended. None of the three started for the Rangers last season and they’ve all taken on that responsibility their senior year. It’s one of the reasons why he feels, despite the losses, all 11 seniors have the chance at success moving forward.

“Some of your best lessons, you can learn from setbacks. ... If you get beat and you’re down in the dumps and adversity is going on and you want to keep complaining about stuff and making excuses, that’s kind of how you’re going to be in life,” Fuhs said. “If you have good character, you’re going to pick yourself up. You’re going to be positive. You’re going to come back out the next day, the next week, do your job and do the best you can.

“Hopefully that’s what these guys are learning.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at jjasinski@dcherald.com.




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