Weather not enough to cool off the Patriots

Photos by Kaiti Sullivan/The Herald
Heritage Hills' Phoenix Rodgers runs the ball during Friday's football game in Huntingburg. Heritage Hills defeated Forest Park 48-6. For more photos from the game, click here.

By JONATHAN SAXON
jsaxon@dcherald.com

FERDINAND — The elements took a turn for the worse as temperatures dropped to the basement and rain fell over Ferdinand during Friday night’s matchup between the Class 3A. No. 3 Heritage Hills Patriots and the Forest Park Rangers. But the weather couldn’t ice the Patriots who used four turnovers and flashes of their passing game to roll up a 48-6 win over the Rangers.

Patriots (8-0, 6-0) coach Todd Wilkerson was proud of the way his team endured the elements and believes that having that experience will only make the boys stronger in postseason play.

“I thought we handled the elements well,” he said. “We needed to play in a game like this. Conditions like this should be favorable to us in the tournament. I was glad to see us run the ball the way we did, and I thought we threw the ball fairly well in the weather.”

The Rangers (4-4, 2-4) tried to catch the Patriots slipping with an onside kick to start the game, and the Patriots made them pay in a hurry. It only took two plays for senior fullback Jacob Wetzel to find room and take off on a 47-yd run for the Pats’ first score.

Forest Park’s first drive failed to net a first down, which left the door open for Phoenix Rodgers. The senior fullback capped Heritage Hills’ next possession with a 15-yd run for the 14-0 lead. Following another three-and-out from the Rangers, The Pats engineered a third consecutive scoring drive. Rodgers once again punched it home, this time with an 8-yd scurry which gave the Pats 20 unanswered points in the first quarter.

The Rangers started to gain some offensive traction in the second half, as they put together a drive that made some inroads into Pats territory. But the series came to a halt when junior running back Jake Begle fumbled just as the Rangers were crossing midfield, which was recovered by the Patriots. Four plays later senior quarterback Cole Sigler dropped back and nailed senior wide receiver Kaden Feldpausch for a 13-yd score.

The turnover woes for the Rangers didn’t stop there. Three plays into their next drive sophomore quarterback Cooper Uebehlor was picked off by junior safety Adam Guth, and the Pats didn’t need much time to maximize the break. This time it was senior running back Gavin Vaal with the honor of cashing in, as he took the following handoff 23 yards for another Heritage Hills touchdown.

Vaal would impact the game once more shortly after, this time on the defensive end of the field. Forest was once again driving down the field and, faced with a 4th-and-5, decided to try their luck through the air. Vaal was their to pick off Uebelhor and took it the other way for six.

“It was neat, I haven’t had an interception all year. The whole team makes fun of me for it,” he said. “I just saw the quarterback, read him and put myself in the right position. Got under the ball and took it to the house.”

The Patriots would score their final touchdown with a 15-yd Wetzel run in the fourth quarter, but all wasn’t lost for the Rangers, as they used a 15-play drive that spanned nearly the entire third quarter to get some points on the board. The scoring play came with a good bit of drama, as Uebelhor did his best to make the most of a busted play at the goal line. He heaved up a prayer to the end zone, which fluttered perilously before getting collected by senior tight end Gavin Knust.

“Cooper threw the ball, I just took off sprinting after it,” said Knust. “Me and my teammate collided going after the ball, I didn’t see him coming. I caught the ball, I don’t remember much about it.”

Sigler finished 2-for-3 through the air for 51 yards and a touchdown. Wetzel and Rodgers combined for 137 yards and four scores on the ground. Vaal had another 55 yards and a touchdown on six carries.

Uebelhor finished 3-for-10 passing for 21 yards, a touchdown, and three interceptions. Senior fullback Drew Day had 83 yards on 24 rushes.

Heritage Hills will have another shot at an unblemished regular season when they travel to Rockport to play the South Spencer Rebels next Friday, but the team has their sights focused on a bigger prize.

“Every week our coaches tell us we need to get better,” said Vaal. “We’re going to use next week as a tool to get better. We’re still hungry, conference championship isn’t enough. We want something more than that this year.”

For the Rangers it’s tough to end their final home game with a loss, but they’ll have an opportunity to finish over .500 for the second time in their program’s history when they face off against the Tell City Marksmen next week.

“Our goal going into the season was being over .500,” said Rangers coach Ross Fuhs. “Our guys have a chance to do that next week. We want to work hard for our seniors to get them to that point.”

“Next week is a huge week,” added Knust. “It would be an honor and make the whole team happy if we came out with a dub against Tell City.”

Forest Park's Cooper Uebelhor passes the ball during Friday's football game in Huntingburg. Heritage Hills defeated Forest Park 48-6. For more photos from the game, click here.



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