The Forest Lake football team felt a homecoming night victory slip through its fingers after Park receiver Kaden Johnson’s fingertips pulled in an overthrown ball on a fourth-and-9 play late in the game, setting the stage for a 14-12 win for his Wolfpack team that pushed the Rangers’ record to 1-4 on the year.
The game-winning score came with 7:09 showing on the fourth-quarter clock, so it was not immediately fatal to the Rangers’ hopes. However, it was a major momentum swing that occurred after the Rangers had stood up running back Carson Kons for a 3-yard loss, forcing Park to burn a timeout to figure out a fourth-and-long plan. The Wolfpack went for it all, sending Johnson on a sprint to the corner while quarterback Jake Kuemmel let fly. The pass was well out in front of its intended target, but Johnson hauled it in on the run with fully extended arms and a slight bobble before falling to the ground with the ball secured.
The touchdown and the ensuing kick pushed the Wolfpack ahead by the eventual final score, 14-12. The Rangers had plenty of time to strike back but wasted some of it after fumbling on first down following the score. The Rangers kept the Wolfpack in check and forced a punt on the following drive, but they found themselves starting from their own 4 with less than three minutes to play. A fourth-down linkup between Ranger quarterback Colton Trapp and running back Troy Pleski brought the ball as far as the Ranger 38, but the drive stalled after that, confirming the loss.
Park scored first as well as last in the game, opening the scoring with a 48-yard touchdown run by Christopher Brewer. The Rangers responded quickly — such as it were — with a 12-play dink-and-dunk drive that covered 66 yards and carried over into the second quarter before Grant Yearling scored on a pitch play.
The Rangers missed the point after, leaving them down 7-6, but then pulled off what might be called an “accidental onside kick.” Josh Schlichting’s kickoff went deep and angled sharply toward the sideline. The Park return man let the ball skip off the turf in the hope that it go out of bounds for an illegal procedure penalty that would give his team the ball in an advanced position. Instead, the ball took a strange bounce and stayed in the field of play. By the time the returner went for the ball, two Ranger gunners were diving in with him, and Forest Lake’s Derrick Cardinal was holding the ball when the pile was peeled back.
Cardinal’s recovery set the Rangers up at the 16. Trapp passed to Quentin Evans for 8 yards and then scrambled for 7. A bobbled snap pushed the Rangers back to the 3, but that wasn’t enough to prevent Yearling from collecting his second touchdown of the quarter.
The Rangers went for two, but Trapp was stopped short on a wide bootleg run — a Park stop that would prove absolutely vital, given the eventual final.
Pleski led the Rangers with 59 rushing yards, while Yearling picked up 49. Among the leading tacklers were Schlichting (5.5) Logan Swanson (4.5), Austin Nelson (4.5) and Gabe Brisbois (4).
The Rangers will try to get back in the win column when they visit Irondale Friday at 7 p.m. The Knights are 2-3 on the year and are riding a two-game losing streak, having fallen to Coon Rapids 38-0 and Robbinsdale Armstrong 44-7 in recent showings.