The Forest Lake football team could not avoid the referees’ glare during its season opener at Park on Aug. 31, and as a consequence the Rangers were never able to find a rhythm on offense. Park used a big second half attack to roll past the Rangers 34-0.
The Forest Lake offense started brightly: quarterback Connor Hale and running back Sam Jackomino picked up big gains on the ground to lead the Rangers to the Park 20 on their first possession.
On first down Jackmonio slashed his way to the 5, but that play was negated by a Ranger holding penalty. The Rangers were also called for holding on two of the next three plays, and committed a false start when they next lined up. On fourth down, they were called for delay of game – a total of 40 yards lost.
“It’s disappointing to drive right down the field, but then lose 40 yards in three plays,” head coach Jeff Wilson said. “I have to look back at myself and what we did to prepare. We made our mistakes; 200 yards in penalties isn’t going to do us any good.”
The Rangers were forced to cut their losses and punt the ball away.
The Wolfpack struck first on their ensuing possession. Quarterback Grant Glazier hit receiver Edmond Nkwain over the middle, and Nkwain sprinted past the Ranger defensive backs and into the end zone for a 50-yard score.
The two teams played to a stalemate the rest of the first half, with the score remaining 7-0 at the interval.
Glazier hit Nkwain on a deep bomb down the right sideline to open the third quarter, doubling the Park advantage.
The Rangers missed a chance to strike back quickly. Hale carried the ball into Park territory with runs of 12 and seven yards. Jimmy Thill carried for a first down, then Hale took the ball to the 31 yard line.
The drive came unglued after Park linebacker Alex Halliburton sacked Hale for a 10-yard loss. On third down, Hale threw downfield for receiver Roman Notch, whose route was blatantly interrupted by a hit from a Park safety; with the intended receiver out of the play, the ball sailed into the hands of Nkwain. The refs saw fit to ignore the contact and allowed the play to stand.
Glazier completed the ensuing drive with a touchdown pass to Charlie Gorres; the extra point attempt struck the backside of an offensive lineman and was no good.
The Rangers’ next drive was stalled by penalties for holding, illegal man downfield and intentional grounding.
The Wolfpack extended their lead in the dying seconds of the third quarter on a short run by Uriah Davis. After a Ranger fumble, Park backup quarterback Joshua Caldwell drove the Wolfpack inside the 5. On third and goal, his pass was knocked out of the air by Ranger linebacker Mason Van Vleet, but it deflected right into the hands of Park receiver Joe Timp.
Big carries by Jackomino and Hale brought the Rangers into Park territory one last time. Jackomino took the ball to the Park 20, only to have yet another gain wiped out by a holding call. Thill would eventually be stopped half a yard short of the marker on fourth down to ice the game.
“The things we thought would work worked,” Wilson said. “We ran our sweep and they started to stunt inside, which is a wasted stunt because it takes them out of the picture. We ran our sweep reads well; we ran our trap well. We made a lot of gains.”
The Rangers (0-1) will play their home and Suburban Blue subdistrict opener Friday night against Coon Rapids (0-1). The Cardinals dropped a 24-17 decision to Chaska last week.