Rangers' improvement shows against Rebels

Photos By Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Forest Park’s Victor Weyer tried to pump up the Ranger offense during Friday night’s Class 2A sectional clash with South Spencer in Reo. The Rangers were within 14 points of the Rebels midway through the fourth quarter before South Spencer secured a 38-17 win to end Forest Park’s season. For a gallery of photos, click here.

Herald Sports Writer

REO — Facing different circumstances, Travis Schnell and Austin Egloff both wanted to return this season for the same reason: This year’s Forest Park football team was memorable in its own way.


The results aren’t necessarily something the Rangers will remember from this season, but that’s all right. The lack of wins don’t give an accurate barometer of how well the team improved throughout the season or how much effort the guys gave every week, Forest Park coach Ross Fuhs said.

Both of the aforementioned characteristics showed in Forest Park’s season-ending 38-17 loss in the Class 2A sectional semifinals to South Spencer on Friday night at Fred Ayer Field.

Less than a month ago, Forest Park (1-9) lost to the Rebels (5-6) by more than five touchdowns. Friday night, the Rangers had the ball in the fourth quarter in a two-possession game.

They also gained 207 rushing yards Friday, 76 more than last month, on one less attempt. A stat made more impressive considering leading-rusher Josh Voegerl missed the game with concussion symptoms, but the big numbers were still attainable.


“It’s kind of a shock knowing it’s the last time, going out as a Ranger,” said Schnell, who rushed for two touchdowns and a game-high 199 yards on 26 carries. “But all of us seniors need to come back. If we can’t play, we can support the team and teach the kids some lessons.”

The senior missed three games earlier in the season because of a team-related suspension, but returned to give Forest Park its largest rushing output of the season.

That Schnell entered Friday knowing it could be his last game didn’t go unknown. Nor did he forget what he overcame to be back on the field.

“That was probably the longest three weeks I’ve ever had,” Schnell said of his absence. “You learn from your mistakes and I’m just trying to be a better person. I really feel special now that I’m back; it makes me feel more with the team.”

Egloff, meanwhile, played in his first game of the year after breaking his fibula in a preseason scrimmage. The junior became a bit emotional while he talked. It was hard to blame him. Between an affinity for his teammates and the senior class and having to watch all year while his friends tried to create momentum that can somehow be carried into next year, Egloff fought back tears.

“It meant the world to get out there and make a difference for the seniors and just play good,” Egloff said. “I’m just glad to get out there and be healthy once. It felt good to play and get a couple tackles and sacks. It was great.”

Forest Park linebacker Noah Braunecker tried to keep a grip on South Spencer’s Denver Burden, who rushed for 168 yards and scored the Rebels’ first four touchdowns.

“We were looking for big things out of Austin and it was nice to have him back,” Fuhs added.

Egloff was one of a handful of Rangers to pressure Cole Woodburn. Still, the Rebel quarterback fired an 86-yard touchdown pass to Denver Burden, who also scored on runs of 1, 60 and 20 yards, and a 38-yard strike to Jake Burden.

Denver Burden finished with 168 yards on 20 carries and scored his second touchdown of the game with 7:28 remaining in the first quarter. In between, Schnell gashed the Rebels for a 60-yard run before scoring from 6 yards out; Schnell added a 57-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

“I would not gain a single yard if it wasn’t for my line,” Schnell said  “Every time I would do something that was a progressive thing, I would always appreciate it with them. I always respect them and tell them good job and I’m doing it for them.”

Each team registered a field goal before intermission, contributing to an exciting first half. The teams then recorded five consecutive turnovers in the third quarter, as Forest Park’s Noah Braunecker forced and recovered a fumble, and Lance Buechler nabbed an interception.

Trent Bayer, the Rangers’ first-year starting quarterback, completed 6-of-13 passes, including three completions to Francis Bohnenkamper for 64 yards. Bohnenkamper also represented the Rangers’ big-play threat in the regular-season contest, catching three passes for 67 yards in a 47-10 loss Sept. 28 in Reo, giving Forest Park a deep threat as the Rangers needed to replace the production left by the exit of 2012 graduate and Harvard freshman Ben Braunecker.

“I think the biggest thing is the resiliency we showed all year,” Fuhs said. “We had to fight through a lot of injuries, we fought through a lot of graduation, we fought through a lot of adversity this year — whether it was stuff on the field, off the field — but they kept their heads up the whole year and I couldn’t be prouder of them.

“We didn’t have the season we wanted to have. We obviously hoped to win more games, but they came to practice every day with their heads up, they came to practice with a positive attitude, so I think resiliency is the word for this group.”

Fuhs said what made this year’s senior class stand out was its demeanor: Guys were nice — sometime too nice, Fuhs said with a half-smile. There were times he wished the seniors played with more aggression, but he couldn’t deny the improvement the seniors and everyone else displayed the last few weeks.

Friday night the team communicated and tackled better than in its previous loss to the Rebels, Fuhs said. And he could relate to Schnell’s wish to continue teaching the underclassmen everything possible.

Fuhs didn’t sign up to coach the team for one season and move on. Ideas and philosophies were implemented this season in the hope they pay off in future years. For that to happen, Fuhs knows what’s needed. Now his players do, too.

“Every team we play is going to be physical, they’re going to be big and strong and fast,” Fuhs said. “I hope that’s something they take into the offseason and realize how hard they have to work this offseason to come back next year and compete and raise their game even more.”

Contact John Patishnock at jpatishnock@dcherald.com.

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