Little things a big deal in Rangers' hunt for traction

By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer

LEOPOLD — It’s the little things.

Forest Park running back Travis Schnell firmly believes that if and when the 11 guys that line up on offense or defense for the Rangers work cohesively and do their jobs, the potential has ascending limitations.

Yet a missed block, a poor defensive read or any other small fault often makes all the difference.

Friday night’s collision with Perry Central was no different, as lapses on defense, oftentimes preceded by offensive blunders, permitted the Commodores to explode for three touchdowns of at least 35 yards — and two over 70 yards — in a 39-20 takedown of the Rangers at Perry Central Field.

Despite amassing 313 yards of offense, Forest Park (0-2)  continued making mental errors it hoped to alleviate after last week’s setback to Gibson Southern. A lost fumble on Perry Central’s 11-yard line let the Commodores off the hook, and an interception with 1:06 left in the second quarter and Perry Central already up 20-14, allowed the hosts to score again before the half.

“We need to focus on the little things more,” Schnell said. “When everybody on the field does everything right, we can do damage. But until we get everybody on the field to do it right, then we’re just going to be taking steps backward.”

Perry Central running back Austin LeClere (three rushing touchdowns) posed the biggest threat to the Ranger defense, scampering for a game-high 239 yards on the ground including 73- and 83-yard touchdown runs on his second and third carries of the game, respectively. The Commodores finished with 305 yards rushing to go along with a hush-yet-deadly 76 through the air, highlighted by the 35-yard touchdown pass by quarterback Dacota Schaad leading into halftime.

“It’s the same story, one step forward and two steps back,” Ranger coach Ross Fuhs said. “Until we figure out we have to go hard every play, until we figure out that you have to communicate every play, like we said last week, every game is going to be tough for us.”

But the second-quarter touchdown pass was perhaps the most painful, Fuhs said.

“We come down, and we’re all yelling, ‘They’re going to throw the ball,’” he recalled. “We all knew they were going to throw the ball. And our guys are up there playing tight and they get burned and then they score. ... That was just a back-breaker.”

Physically, the team has what it takes to compete, Fuhs said.

The statistics concurred.

Ignoring the Rangers’ three turnovers, they did muster noteworthy offense balance, something Fuhs stressed. First-year starting quarterback Trent Bayer continued his maturation, finishing 7-for-17 for 123 yards and two touchdowns. Bayer showcased arm strength — a 42-yard score to Lance Buechler — and poise — a lofted touch pass to Alec Hassfurther that went for a 36-yard touchdown.

“I can see that he’s been a little more patient when throwing,” Schnell said of Bayer. “He’s not as frantic and I can see him (becoming) a pretty good quarterback. You’ve just got to give it to him for taking a beating a getting back up.”

Bayer did take signicantly less abuse, however, sacked only once compared to six times the previous game.

And the ground game progressed as well, as Forest Park churned out 183 rushing yards, with Schnell (117 yards), Alec Hassfurther (31) and Josh Voegerl (27) commanding the attack.

And those stats also point to the improvement of the Ranger linemen, Schnell said.

“The line’s a big part of the success because we’ve got to be able to block and we can’t run the ball (without that),” he said.

All said, incorportating a dangerious blend of run and pass is the ultimate goal, Fuhs said.

“That’s exactly what our gameplan was coming in,” he said. “We wanted to establish the run because they kind of snuck up a little bit, and then pop ’em with some play action. A couple times we did that, and guys were wide open. We really want to be (50 percent run and 50 percent pass), (that) would be ideal.”

Looming next Friday at Ranger Field is a showdown with Southridge (2-0), Fuhs’ alma mater and Forest Park’s toughest test thus far. But for now, focus is on eliminating the mental mistakes, eradicating the small glitches.

“We’re taking it week by week,” Fuhs said. “It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. We’re going to come in and work hard and we’re going to get after it. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is. Obviously, Southridge, yeah they’re tough. They’ve got a big line, and maybe our line might not match up well. But we’ve got to be able to throw it, we’ve got to be able to run it, we’ve gotta be not predictable. It’s just a matter of bearing down and doing the little things right.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at jjasinski@dcherald.com.




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