The Forest Lake football team’s season-opening game at Tartan Aug. 29 was a good one for those who like big scoring plays: With the exception of one drive, the teams only saw the red zone as a blur during one of six long distance touchdown sprints, which coveraged an average yardage of 53.3.
Alas for the local boys, the Titans accounted for four of the touchdowns to the Rangers’ two, creating a 24-15 win for the home side.
Early mistakes were killers for the Rangers in their first offensive forays of the year. The Rangers received the kickoff and moved strongly from their own 14 to the Tartan 42 in eight plays, only to see a Colton Trapp pass picked off by Kenny Jordan and returned to the Ranger 43. The Titans only needed one play to take advantage, when Dorion Singer got behind the defense and received a 43-yard bomb from DeShawn Carter. A faulty point-after try held the score at 6-0.
The Rangers looked to make a similar move when Quentin Evans picked off a Tartan pass and brought the ball to the near 30. In a short drive that crossed into the second quarter, the Rangers rode power runs by Troy Pleski and a fourth-down conversion on a slant from Trapp to Westen Peterson to drive inside the Titan 5. Their attempt at a tying touchdown went completely awry, however, when a fumble was picked up by Singer, who ran 96 yards for a touchdown at the wrong end. A 2-point attempt was stuffed by the Rangers.
The Rangers began a later second quarter drive at their own 19, and a bobbled handoff nearly led to further disaster before Trapp managed to fall on the ball. Things improved from that inauspicious start when Trapp found Peterson for a 43-yard gain on the next play, and then Pleski took the next handoff 40 yards for the first Forest Lake points of the year. Trapp kicked the PAT to bring the score to 12-7.
The Rangers held Tartan at bay until late in the third quarter, when Quantrell Fields scored from 22 yards out, a relatively short touchdown by the game’s standards. Singer would score his third touchdown on a 71-yard reception — in both cases, the Titans failed to add to their score on the extra point.
The Titans’ three big offensive scoring plays (the fumble return not counting in that category) were harsh on the Ranger defense, which only gave up 100 yards all game otherwise.
“I thought the defense played really well,” head coach Sam Ferraro said. “It was just three plays, defensively. The second [big pass] we undercut it and it was close to being a pick, we just couldn’t get it.”
Trapp hit Cole Brisbois for a 48-yard score early in the fourth quarter, and Pleski picked up the 2-pointer to close the gap to 24-15, but that would be as close as the Rangers would come.
“The guys don’t quit,” Ferraro said. “They’re still learning, and we’ll get better. Usually the biggest change is from week one to week two, and that determines your season, I believe.”
Forest Lake will try to even their record in a road contest Friday at Coon Rapids, which also stands 0-1 after being shutout by St. Thomas Academy 34-0 in week one. The game will represent both teams’ first foray within the Suburban Blue subdistrict. The teams played close games each of the last two seasons, with the Rangers falling 21-19 last fall despite threatening in Cardinal territory in the closing minutes.
Ferraro noted, though, that a new coaching staff at Coon Rapids means that the Rangers may not be able to take much from their past experiences.
“We’ll see what they’ve got going on,” Ferraro said. “We’ll need to play with some heart and just make some plays.”
After starting with two games on the road, the Rangers will head home in week three (Sept. 13) for a clash against Hopkins.