Rangers welcome a new No. 2

Jake May/The Herald
Perry Central’s Greg Coultas, left, grabbed a fistful of Dakota Geyer’s jersey Friday night as the Rangers unloaded for 24 second-quarter points in their home opener. Geyer’s run helped set up a field goal as Forest Park pulled past the Commodores 31-12. For a gallery of photos, click here.


Herald Sports Writer

FERDINAND — Terry Wagner entered the season knowing that for his Forest Park football team to reach its full potential offensively, a second wide receiver needed to emerge as a viable threat. It didn’t take Lance Buechler long to eviscerate any lingering doubt as to who could elevate to that status.

Buechler, a junior who amassed all of 152 yards receiving last season for the Rangers, snared a pair of 30-plus yard touchdown receptions — including one with triple zeroes on the clock at the end of the first half — to solidify his spot as the No. 2 receiver and kickstart Forest Park during its 31-12 romp over visiting Perry Central on Friday night at Ferdinand.

“It just boosts my confidence amazingly,” said Buechler, who scored his first varsity touchdowns. “I just want to keep going from here.”

If he does, he’ll build off what he called a “team game,” though despite the wide margin, the Rangers (2-0) meandered through much of the early portions as Perry Central started the game with nine consecutive runs, clutched an early lead, recovered an onside kick and nearly owned a two-touchdown lead before the Rangers collected a pair of first downs.

But Commodore quarterback Dakota Schaad fumbled into the end zone for a Ranger touchback in the first quarter, serving as an appetizer for the turnover party that commenced. After Perry Central (0-2) scored on the first play of the second quarter and recovered the kick, Ranger defensive lineman Lynk Kordes corralled a fumble on the ensuing Commodore drive. Forest Park scored on its next four possessions of the quarter, including on the last snap before halftime.

Before that, Dakota Begle kicked a 25-yard field goal, Travis Schnell scored from 3 yards out, and Buechler caught a 31-yard touchdown pass with 54 seconds left before intermission.

After Perry Central returned the kickoff to the Forest Park 48-yard line, Ben Braunecker gobbled up his second interception of the season and ran it back to the Commodores’ 33-yard line with two seconds left. The Rangers called timeout, debating over whether or not to take a knee. They opted instead to seize an opportunity.

With multiple defenders flanking Braunecker all night, Buechler sidestepped the defense, wiggled out to the near sideline, caught a pass from Miles Leonard and outran the defense for the final 15 yards, racing into the end zone after time expired.

“We had two post routes going toward the middle, and I just came around with the wheel route,” Buechler said. “Miles just gave me the ball and I ran it in. ... Your mindset just has to be, ‘Get in the end zone.’”

The wheel route Buechler ran is a creation of offensive coordinator Wes Fink after he saw opposing defenses constantly double-team Braunecker, and is also new to Buechler’s repertoire this year. It’s an addition made possible by Buechler being stronger and faster this year after an intense off-season weightlifting regimen, he said.

The route also exposed Perry Central’s man-to-man, cover-two defense, one that Buechler said allowed him to slither open on the outside after the Rangers went inside with crossing patterns. That Buechler and the offense was given the ability to try to one lost pop wasn’t lost, either.

“He believes in us,” Buechler said of Wagner. “We won’t turn the ball over and we’ll play smart. We have the ability to make the big play.”

That note was part of Buechler’s summary of how and why he was able to rumble in for the momentum-gripping play with no time left. He credited Leonard’s accuracy, the offensive line’s ability to provide protection, Fink’s vision and Wagner’s confidence. Buechler also credited Braunecker, who finished with five catches for 104 yards and a touchdown, and not just for the single coverage Braunecker affords. The two battle routinely in practice, as Braunecker doubles as Buechler’s man to beat on defense.

“You don’t see many 215-pound cornerbacks,” Buechler said. “It made me better every day going up against him.”

Another super-sized Ranger played a pivotal role, even if it may have gotten lost in translation as the Ranger piled on the points.

Perry Central chewed up 237 yards on the ground, but needed 54 carries to get there. And in the process, the Commodores fumbled three times, losing two of them. The bobble that Kordes jumped on in the second quarter came after a handful of Rangers wrapped up Perry Central running back Hunter LaGrange. Kordes then leapfrogged a tangled-up Commodore and changed the momentum for the night.

“For a big boy, he comes on and really helps us out with some of those plays,” Wagner said. “And that can change the whole complexion of the game when you have a big play like that.”

It sure did Friday night. Kordes’ pickup preceded the Rangers scoring 31 unanswered points, and was one of five takeaways Forest Park forced in the first half, allowing the new No. 2 to enjoy a little redemption after a pair of recent dropped passes.

“Lance has always been a good receiver,” said Wagner, whose team will battle Southridge (1-1) next Friday at Huntingburg. “He dropped two (passes) last week, and I think that shook his confidence. I think tonight really helped him out, and will help us out, too, in the long run.”

Aug. 19 — at Gibson Southern W 21-16
Aug. 26 — PERRY CENTRAL W 31-12
Sept. 2 — at Southridge, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 23 — at North Posey
Oct. 14 — at Tell City

Contact John Patishnock at jpatishnock@dcherald.com.

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