The Forest Lake defense forced four turnovers in the first half Oct. 25 to keep its first-round playoff game at Totino-Grace close, but in the second half the No. 1 seeded Eagles pulled away for a 41-9 decision that ended the Rangers’ 2019 season.

“Our defense played hard in the first half and kept [T-G] down,” head coach Sam Ferraro said. “We just got tired in the second half.”

The Rangers’ first two snaps on defense went as well as anyone could have hoped. On the first, the defensive line swatted down a T-G pass, and on the second, senior Jack Makelke knocked the ball out of the Eagle ball carrier’s hands and junior Andrew Sykora gathered the loose ball.

The next play swung momentum the other way, however: T-G linebacker Aidan Thomas picked off senior quarterback Colton Trapp’s pass and returned it to the Ranger 32. That short field set up a short touchdown drive that gave the Eagles a 7-0 lead.

The Rangers moved as far as the T-G 49 before being stopped on third down, but collected another fumble when the T-G punt returner coughed up the ball and senior Zach Gordy was first man on the spot. Junior Josh Schlichting kicked a 32-yard field goal shortly thereafter to get the Rangers on the board.

Senior Austin Nelson and sophomore Charlie Peterson each killed T-G drives with interceptions, but neither takeaway led to points. T-G got a second touchdown late in the second quarter. After Trapp was knocked out of the game with an injury, junior backup Hunter Kasa led the Rangers on a drive that reached as far as the T-G 17, but ended with no points when Schlichting was stopped about one air molecule short of the sticks on a fake field goal run on fourth-and-3.

The Eagles blew open the game in the second half, scoring touchdowns on a 28-yard bomb, a 57-yard pitch and dash and a 14-yard run, converting 2 of the 3 kick attempts.

On the last drive of the game, senior Grant Yearling made a long run to set up senior Troy Pleski’s 41-yard scoring scamper. Pleski was stopped short on the 2-point conversion attempt, finalizing the scoreline.

The Rangers ended their season with an overall record of 2-7, though apart from the playoff defeat, they were in with a chance in most of their games.

“We’ve had success this year, even though the record doesn’t show it as much,” Ferraro said. “We could have easily been 7-1 [in the regular season] instead of 2-6.”

Football teams are always led by their seniors, and most squads lose large numbers each time a class graduates. Beyond the seniors already mentioned above, the Ranger program also gives its final send-offs to Zach Gordy, Ryan Edquist, Quentin Evans, Westen Peterson, Gabe Brisbois, Spencer Notch, Josh Thompson, Logan Swanosn, Pedro Castillo, Jonah Peterson, Austin Fesler, Jordan Waddle and Seth Morris.

“The seniors are our leaders,” Ferraro said. “They’ve been part of changing the culture here and they did great things for the program.”

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