False start for football team

Park spoils Kirch’s debut by rolling to first win in 21 games


Park beat Forest Lake 47-12 in the season opener in Cottage Grove last Thursday. Above: Ranger linebacker Riley Olson tries to wrap up Park’s standout running back Dylan Smallidge. (Photo by Clint Riese)

Clint Riese
Sports Editor

Last Thursday’s football season opener was historic for Forest Lake as head coach Billy Kirch made his Ranger debut. Unfortunately, it was also historic for Park, which snapped a 20-game losing streak by routing Forest Lake 47-12.

After some initial feeling-out, the Wolfpack ran away with a big home victory that left Ranger fans wondering about the prospects for this season.

Kirch, a Blaine native who led his nine-man team to a  state championship in South Dakota last fall, saw a lot to improve on.

“It was the first varsity football game for 98 percent of our kids last night and it showed,” he said.

Wolfpack Rolls

Forest Lake stopped Park on fourth down in the game’s opening series, then marched into Wolfpack territory before its first drive stalled out.

Park got the ball back, marched 78 yards for a touchdown, and went on to add touchdowns on its next three drives to go up 27-0. Wolfpack quarterback Sam Domeier first broke free for a 72-yard scoring run, then handed off to Dylan Smallidge for a 9-yard touchdown scamper, found Brandon Tulloch in the end zone from 9 yards out and busted another long touchdown run of 61 yards.

The Rangers answered with a nifty hook-and-ladder play which saw Danny Wassman score from 36 yards out with 35 seconds left in the half. The gap would close no further, though, as Park scored the first three touchdowns of the second half.

Smallidge finished with 222 of Park’s 403 rushing yards. Domeier ran for 117 yards and threw for 108.

The Rangers totaled 220 yards, split evenly through the air and on the ground. Quarterback Trent Rabel threw for 104 yards, including the touchdown pass, and rushed for 44. Kyle Sowers hauled in three catches for 45 yards. Riley Olson scored late on a 2-yard touchdown run.

Fixable Mistakes

Despite the result, Kirch said the team was eager to learn Friday morning.

“Give them credit for getting right back to it,” he said. “We watched film and learned a lot.”

The coaching staff also went up and down the roster and discussed the role of each player. Many position shifts may occur throughout the year as the staff evaluates the team’s talent.

Kirch said last year’s footage of Park did not help much. In 2011 the Wolfpack threw the ball all over the field. In the opener, Park repeatedly ran the same few running plays over and over with success.

The culprit was blown assignments and lack of knowledge, Kirch said, noting that both can be fixed.

“The mistakes we made are all correctable,” he said. “It wasn’t that we were outmatched in any way or that physically we can’t get it done.”

Park has historically been among the easiest opponents in the Suburban East Conference. The Rangers now have to hope the Wolfpack proves to be much improved throughout this year.

“I hope they go undefeated,” Kirch joked.

The Rangers, meanwhile, host East Ridge in this Friday’s home opener. The Raptors went 3-7 a year ago and lost to Cretin-Derham Hall by 10 points last week.